Operations at meat plant suspended over beef labelling
The investigation into the presence of horse meat in beef products took a fresh turn yesterday when operations were suspended at the BF Meats plant in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary. Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the plant had been sending horse meat, which was labelled as beef, to a customer in the Czech Republic, via a UK-based trader. He said the labelling was in Czech but when translated, it referred to beef.
Mr Coveney said his department had suspended all operations at the plant with immediate effect. The department’s special investigation unit entered the plant yesterday afternoon to carry out a full investigation. “I am seriously concerned about this development and the gardaí have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my department,” he said. “The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.”
BF Meats is a small-scale plant working with beef and horse meat. Its main premises in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, closed down after a fire last year. The Carrick-on-Suir facility is approved by the Department of Agriculture for the cutting and cold-storing of beef and horse meat.
Earlier this week its director Ted Farrell told the Farming Independent the plant would continue to provide an outlet for slaughtering horses amid fears that the horse meat scandal would result in the closure of such facilities. There was no reply at the premises yesterday.
The State’s investigation into the horse meat scandal is being led by Department of Agriculture’s special investigation unit in conjunction with the Garda’s National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Mr Coveney said the investigation included forensic examination of electronic data and records, and detailed inspections of certain food business operators including traders, transporters, processors and exporters. It is liaising with its counterparts in other member states and Europol.
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president John Comer said the special investigations unit was to be congratulated for the determination and skill it was demonstrating in its work.
He said farmers and consumers alike had a right to expect the full weight of sanctions and penalties available to the authorities to be brought to bear against any party or parties that had deliberately engaged in fraudulent mislabelling or wrongdoing of a similar kind.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland published the protocol for the State’s regime of DNA testing which will check for the presence of horse meat in beef products.
DNA testing will be carried out on pre-packaged and loose beef products on sale in shops and to the catering trade. Ingredients used in processed beef products will also be tested.
The plan also includes the testing of horse meat for bute, a veterinary medicine which is banned from the food chain.
Next month the EU’s DNA testing regime will involve the testing of 50 additional food samples for horse DNA in this State.
Mr Coveney said his department was setting up a centralised equine database to ensure horses were not being illegally slaughtered.
Companies Office records show that BF Meats Limited’s registered office is at Pleberstown, Thomastown. Its directors and shareholders are Ted Farrell, Michael Farrell and John Barron. The latest accounts filed by the company show it generated a profit after tax of €64,808 in 2011, down from €346,060 the previous year.
At the end of 2011 it was employing 29 staff.