Horse DNA results for Polish abattoirs expected

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 00:00

Results are expected this afternoon on tests of five Polish slaughter facilities and one cold storage plant flagged by Ireland’s horse meat investigation.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said last weekend that authorities in Poland were to investigate how traces of horse DNA found their way into burgers made by Silvercrest Foods. It was revealed that Polish ingredients were the likely source of horse meat found at a level of 29 per cent in a Tesco burger made at the Silvercrest plant, which is owned by the ABP Food Group.

Poland’s General Veterinary Inspectorate (GIW) was informed by Irish counterparts on Saturday about their tests. The GIW immediately conducted tests and sent samples to Poland’s national laboratory.

Ahead of those results, Polish investigators said yesterday they were working on the assumptions that products were incorrectly marked before being forwarded on or that labels on products were deliberately switched along the chain of production.

Logistics

Thus they have expanded their probe beyond abattoirs to include logistics companies and every other firm that handled meat products before they were dispatched to Ireland.

“We are not talking about a danger for human life but incorrect labelling,” said GIW deputy head Jaroslaw Naze. “We are looking for somewhere where somebody could – possibly in Poland – put horse meat into products instead of beef.”

He declined to name the facilities under investigation but confirmed they were scattered throughout the country. Two plants, in the regions of Malopolska and Lodzkie, were reported yesterday to have delivered meat to Ireland, though neither slaughters horses.

Poland’s Food and Safety Authority said yesterday it was not involved in the investigation.

Poland’s media has latched onto the Irish horse-burger scandal since the weekend, with graphic reports of bulking out low-grade meat content with “thickener” – a broth made from cow, pig and horse skins.However, the reports noted that the high level of horse meat in Irish-produced burgers could not be explained by the use of such products.

Serious blow

Positive test results today would be a serious blow to Poland’s food industry, worth €14 billion annually to the national economy. Some 100,000 people are employed in beef and pork slaughter and production facilities in Poland.

Six top processors, including ABP outside Poznan, control 80 per cent of the market, with the rest divided among 3,500 smaller producers.

Three-quarters of Polish beef is exported – mainly to the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. European markets buy up 80 per cent of Polish meat. Turkey is also a growing market.

Beef and veal production has increased almost three and a half times from the time of EU accession. Poland is also Europe’s fourth largest pork producer. There are only a handful of horse abattoirs in the country, exporting largely to Italy.

“Horse meat is not popular in Poland,” said Mr Naze. “In our culture we love horses and don’t think one is supposed to eat them.”

Regional veterinary inspectors said yesterday it was “technically impossible” for horse meat to have been added inside a Polish abattoir.

“Only at the process of mincing, when the spices and preservatives are added, could somebody have added additional horse meat bits to improve its consistency,” said one regional veterinary inspector, who asked not to to be named.