More than 10m burgers to be destroyed
More than 10 million burgers withdrawn from supermarkets by the ABP Food Group last week will be destroyed, the company has confirmed.
The company had withdrawn more than 10 million burgers produced by its Silvercrest Foods plant in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, and the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Britain.
“It is planned to destroy the withdrawn product,” an ABP spokeswoman said.
The burgers were withdrawn after a Food Safety Authority of Ireland study found horse DNA in burgers produced by ABP’s two plants and by Liffey Meats in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.
One burger, produced by Silvercrest Foods for Tesco, contained 29.1 per cent horse DNA, relative to meat content.
The other nine samples had very low amounts of horse DNA, ranging from 0.3 per cent to levels too low to be quantified.
The food safety authority said research was now needed to determine if there were thresholds below which cross-contamination with DNA was unavoidable.
Prof Alan Reilly, chief executive of the food safety authority, said if that was the case, the authorities, consumers and the food industry across Europe would have to consider how it could be addressed.
When the presence of horse DNA in frozen beef burgers emerged, both ABP and Liffey Meats immediately asked supermarkets to withdraw the products from their shelves.
While ABP said it withdrew more than 10 million burgers, Liffey Meats still has not said how many burgers it withdrew.
Liffey Meats has also refused to say what it plans to do with the withdrawn burgers.
While the ABP spokeswoman said the burgers would be destroyed, she was unable to say what method of destruction would be used.
When the burgers were taken off the shelves last week, it was suggested that they could be donated to charity as both the food safety authority and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney had stressed the burgers posed no food safety risk.
It was also suggested they could be offered to students who were still waiting for college grant payments, or used in pet food.
UCD associate professor of public health Patrick Wall has repeatedly expressed concern about the waste involved in destroying 10 million burgers because horse DNA at a level of 29 per cent was found in one burger.
Green Party food spokesman Seamus Sheridan said serious questions remained unanswered a week after the burger study was published.
“The first and most obvious is how a burger manufactured in this country’s leading meat processing plant contained 29 per cent horse meat,” he said.
“This is not a scandal created by a small abattoir hidden behind a wall. We are dealing with the Chelsea or Man City of our agricultural sector.”
Supermarket regulation code of conduct
Legislation for a code of conduct which would regulate supermarkets and stamp out sharp practices such as “hello money” will be published in about six weeks, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.
He said the legislation was on the A list for the Government, which meant it would be published in the next 10 weeks but probably sooner than that.
The legislation comes under the brief of Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton.
The Irish Farmers’ Association said the code of practice could not come soon enough. Farmers and suppliers have been calling for the code of practice and an ombudsman for supermarkets for several years.
They claim some supermarket chains are relentlessly driving down prices and are asking producers for payments to put their produce on shelves, or keep them there or to contribute to the opening of new outlets.
Earlier this week the British government appointed an adjudicator for the groceries code, which is similar to the ombudsman being sought here.
Adjudicator Christine Tacon will investigate alleged breaches of the code and will have power to fine retailers found guilty of breaches.
A spokesman for Mr Bruton said the code of practice would come under the Consumer and Competition Bill.
The Bill is being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
“This is a wide-ranging and comprehensive Bill dealing with three major issues: the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency; the recommendations of the expert group on media mergers; and providing for a statutory code of practice for the grocery goods sector,” he said.