Nine more burgers out of 13 test positive for equine DNA
Nine more beef burgers from a total of 13 tested by the Department of Agriculture at the Silvercrest Foods plant in Co Monaghan have tested positive for traces of equine DNA, it was confirmed last night.
The exact amount of horse DNA found in the burgers will not be known until further tests are carried out in Germany. Silvercrest Foods said it was temporarily suspending production at the Ballybay plant until investigations into the matter were resolved.
Silvercrest employs some 150 workers, but the Larry Goodman-owned ABP Food Group, which owns the plant, said all staff would continue to be paid during the suspension of production.
The horse DNA was found in beef burgers tested by Department of Agriculture staff on Tuesday after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed it had analysed 27 frozen beef burger products from a number of processing plants and found traces of horse meat in 10 of them.
Nine samples had very low traces, but one sample, from a Tesco Everyday Value burger made in the Silvercrest plant, had 29 per cent horse DNA, relative to beef content.
Following these findings, Department staff took 13 samples of finished burgers on Tuesday at the Ballybay plant and last night’s results showed that nine tested positive for traces of horse DNA and another four tested negative.
“Seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another member state, tested positive. All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for equine DNA,” the Department said in a statement.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said arrangements were being put in place with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to have the samples analysed in Germany.
The preliminary laboratory results were released by Mr Coveney last night after being assessed by the authority and his department officials.
He welcomed the decision by the company to temporarily suspend production. Mr Coveney said the Department was continuing its examination of all raw ingredients used in the production of the affected products and this, together with the laboratory tests in Germany, should give greater clarity to the source of the original problem.
He said the focus of the investigation was now to establish a common ingredient used in the manufacture of burgers in all three plants and from where it was sourced.
A spokesman for ABP Food Group said its investigations had centred around two third-party EU suppliers and following the issuing of the test results, it believed it had established the source of the contaminated material to one of these suppliers.
“However, because equine DNA has been found in finished products tested this week, we have decided that the responsible course of action is to suspend all production at the Silvercrest plant in Co Monaghan with immediate effect.”
The company stressed that the products tested this week had already been withdrawn from the market. The spokesman said the company would continue to work with the relevant authorities, management and supervisory team to complete its investigation.
The food safety authority said earlier this week that the findings “pose no risk to public health”.