ABP settles one horse meat legal action and begins another

Norwest - which has links with Ray MacSharry Jnr - apologises for unwittingly supplying contaminated beef

ABP Food Group said today it has settled an action against a UK-based meat firm and begun High Court proceedings against a Polish firm. Photograph: PA

ABP Food Group said today it has settled an action against a UK-based meat firm and begun High Court proceedings against a Polish firm. Photograph: PA

Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 17:47

ABP Food Group has settled an action against a UK-based meat firm and begun High Court proceedings against a Polish firm, both relating to the horse meat crisis, the company has said.

ABP - which is owned by Larry Goodman - said it had agreed to accept a financial settlement from Cheshire-based Norwest Foods for supplying ABP with beef containing horse DNA.

Norwest Foods is involved in the import and export of fresh and frozen meat and meat products and has offices in Poland and Spain. One of its directors is Ray MacSharry Jr, whose father Ray was former Minister for Finance and European commissioner for agriculture and whose brother Marc is a Fianna Fáil senator.

Norwest confirmed the settlement saying: “Norwest Foods International Ltd has today agreed a settlement with ABP relating to the supply by Norwest to ABP of certain beef products found to contain equine DNA. Norwest acknowledges that it may have unknowingly and unwittingly supplied contaminated beef products contrary to the terms of Norwest’s contract with ABP.”

It continued: “Norwest wishes to apologise to ABP for any inconvenience or concerns caused by this matter.”

ABP said details of the financial settlement were subject to a confidentiality agreement.

The company also said it was taking legal proceedings against a Polish supplier, Food Service, for breach of contract relating to their supply of beef containing equine DNA to Silvercrest Foods.

The Department of Agriculture’s initial investigation into the source of the meat product containing horse DNA pointed the finger at Polish suppliers but the Polish authorities had always denied that Polish companies had supplied beef containing horse meat.

ABP chief executive Paul Finnerty said ABP had always insisted that it never knowingly provided beef that contained equine DNA to any of its customers and this was confirmed in the findings of the Department of Agriculture’s report on the issue in March. “ABP’s initial focus was to implement systems to ensure this cannot reoccur and establish the source of certain contaminated product. We have done that now and our current focus is on seeking redress against certain suppliers. We have already resolved matters with Norwest and will now pursue our claim against Food Service through the courts”.

The horse meat crisis emerged in January after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found equine DNA in burgers. Household names such as Tesco, Burger King, Findus and Ikea were all drawn into the crisis but at the centre of the controversy was Silvercrest Foods, which was then owned by ABP. Horse meat accounted for approximately 29 per cent of the meat content in one burger produced by the Ballybay plant. It has since been sold to Kepak and renamed.

Several legal actions were predicted in the wake of the crisis. Last month it emerged that Martin McAdam of McAdam Food Products Ltd was taking legal action against ABP for alleged defamation. In the High Court proceedings, Mr McAdam is claiming that ABP deliberately made “false and malicious allegations” about him and his business to deflect media attention at the height of the horse meat controversy.

Central to the case is a press release issued in February by ABP, stating that its Silvercrest plant had purchased beef products from McAdams Food Service - about 170 tonnes out of total beef purchases in 2012 of 18,000 tonnes - in good faith, but that horse DNA originating in Poland was present in some of these products.

Mr McAdam’s lawyers allege the ABP statement was false in that McAdam did not supply the meat that tested positive for horse DNA to Silvercrest. They claim McAdam supplied only 60 tonnes of beef in total to Silvercrest in 2012, not 170 tonnes as stated in the ABP press release.

ABP Group said it refuted the allegations and there was no basis for the claim. “ABP has every intention of fighting this spurious claim and is continuing to investigate its legal options against McAdam Food Products and other parties who are found to have supplied beef contaminated by horse meat,” it said in a statement after Mr McAdam confirmed that legal proceedings were underway.