New tests to reveal if horse meat still present in burgers

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 00:00

Test results are expected today from new samples taken at the Silvercrest Foods plant at the centre of the controversy over horse meat in beef burgers.

The samples, taken by Department of Agriculture staff at the Ballybay, Co Monaghan, plant on Tuesday, will show if its burgers still contain horse DNA.

They were ordered by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney after it emerged that a Tesco Everyday Value beef burger made at the plant contained 29.1 per cent horse DNA, relative to meat content.

The finding emerged after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland analysed 27 frozen beef burger products. It found 10, or 37 per cent, tested positive for horse DNA. With the exception of the Tesco burger, the other samples showed horse DNA at very low levels, of 0.1 to 0.3 per cent.

Burgers may be destroyed

At least 10 million beef burgers are being withdrawn from shops, and may be destroyed, due to the contamination.

Mr Coveney said products from the Netherlands and Spain added to processed burgers “seem to be the source” of the horse meat.

The story has been making headlines in newspapers and news websites globally. Spanish daily newspaper El País reported that Ireland had attributed the horse meat to Spain. The country is still smarting after Spanish cucumbers were wrongly blamed for the fatal E.coli outbreak in France and Germany in 2011.

Addressing the issue at a press conference in Strasbourg yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny repeated assurances that there was no risk to human health as a result of the discovery of horse DNA in the burgers and he pointed out that horse meat was “widely consumed” across the EU.

He welcomed the investigation and said it was very important for Ireland’s reputation as we prided ourselves on having world-class beef.

The burgers were bought in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl. The tests also found pig DNA in 85 per cent of burgers tested.

Owned by Larry Goodman

Department of Agriculture staff began an investigation at Silvercrest Foods, which is owned by Larry Goodman’s ABP Food Group.

A British plant, Dalepak Hambleton, also part of the ABP group, was found to have produced Iceland quarter pounders containing traces of horse DNA.

Liffey Meats in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, was also found to have produced burgers with traces of horse DNA.

British prime minister David Cameron told MPs that “people in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beef burgers they were buying something that had horse meat in it”. He said this was “a completely unacceptable state of affairs” and the British food standards agency would work with companies to investigate the supply chain.

Writing in today’s Irish Times, Dr Patrick Wall, UCD’s associate professor of public health, said it was sad that at least 10 million frozen burgers were likely to be destroyed because horse DNA at a level of 29 per cent was found in one burger. He also said Ireland’s competitors were quick to criticise our controls and standards “yet few if any of them use similar testing technologies in their own supply chains”.