Goodman queries validity of tests

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

Larry Goodman, founder and executive chairman of ABP Food Group, has questioned the validity of DNA tests on his burgers by regulators and criticised what he called tabloid sensationalisation of the issue.

“We are talking about DNA testing and DNA will pick up molecules and something in the air,” he said.

“I would not be surprised if there was not cross-contamination of various species if one were to do DNA testing.” When asked about the media coverage, Mr Goodman said he was “disgusted with some of the things that I see”.

He denied that cost-cutting by his company was to blame for the contamination.

Mr Goodman said the company had never bought or traded in horse meat and he suspected the contamination came from a hamburger filler product sourced from a supplier on the Continent. “We have been let down,” he said.

He said there was intense pressure from retailers on cost, but this did not mean ABP Food Group used inferior products.

The company said it had “temporarily suspended” production at its Silvercrest plant in Monaghan, which is a supplier to Tesco and Burger King, following the disclosure by food safety authorities in Ireland that a second batch of tests had uncovered further contamination of burgers with horse meat.

In a statement the group said there was “no evidence of any contamination of raw materials used for the manufacture of any Burger King product.”

“All Burger King products produced by us are stored separately and manufactured on an independent line”, it said.

Nine out of 13 burgers from the plant tested positive for traces of horse meat in a new set of DNA tests. Earlier this week a Tesco Everyday Value burger made at the Silvercrest plant was revealed to contain 29 per cent horse meat when tested.

In an interview with the Financial Times Mr Goodman said there was no health problem associated with traces of horse meat found in the burgers, but he said he understood why there was genuine public concern.

Meanwhile sources close to the investigation of the origin of horse DNA found in hamburger ingredients are focusing on particular suppliers in the Netherlands.

The Minister for Agriculture said yesterday the department had its “suspicions” about where the horse DNA came from and it was acting on those but would not name the country where the supplier is based. 

The ABP Food Group, which owns the Co Monaghan plant, said it had pinpointed the issue to one European supplier. A separate source said the ingredient is believed to be from the Netherlands. 

The British Food Standards Agency’s investigation into the Goodman-controlled Dalepak plant in Yorkshire is focusing on whether it shared meat suppliers from the Continent with Silvercrest, it said last night. Samples from there are being DNA-tested for signs of pig or horse meat.

The agency, in co-operation with a number of local authorities, has begun to take samples from meat in UK stores to check if the contents match the listed ingredients. Criminal prosecutions are possible in the if the two do not match. 

Tesco placed full-page advertisements in a number of newspapers yesterday apologising for selling frozen beef burgers that contained horse meat.

 Additional Reporting by Financial Time