Poland angered by burger accusation
Authorities in Poland have said Ireland’s naming of Poland as the source of horse meat in supermarket beef burgers was unacceptable and motivated by commercial concerns.
DNA test results in Poland yesterday showed no signs of horse meat in samples from five production facilities sending beef to Ireland, with results from a sixth due on Monday.
“All 14 samples coming from the five slaughterhouses showed negative results, which means that horse protein was not detected,” said Jaroslaw Naze, deputy head of the national veterinary inspectorate.
Poland began tests last Sunday on factories flagged by Irish authorities the previous day as the source of the suspect meat.
“Such accusations not grounded by any sound evidence are inacceptable, regardless of what they pertain to,” Stanislaw Kalemba, Poland’s minister for agriculture told The Irish Times.
He noted how many recent food scares ended with the first countries named as culprits later cleared.
“Unfortunately, there have been many examples in recent years – let me just mention the dioxin case – indicating that, in the situation of strong competition in the European and global markets, the ‘whatever it takes’ approach seems to prevail.”
Last Saturday, the Department of Agriculture in Dublin identified a Polish beef product as the most likely source of horse meat in beef burgers produced by Silvercrest Foods in Co Monaghan. Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the Polish authorities had been informed.The department said yesterday it remained very confident in the results of its “painstaking” 10-day audit, which revealed Poland as the source of equine DNA in frozen blocks of meat off-cuts. It has declined to name the suspected producer, saying it was a matter for the Polish government.
Mr Coveney, speaking at the Teagasc Food Research Centre at Moorepark in Fermoy, Co Cork, yesterday said: “We are working with the Polish authorities to get to the bottom of how that could have happened. The plants that are supplying it, the Polish company that were supplying the product into Ireland, are all EU registered. This should not have happened.”
Polish authorities were scathing yesterday, saying they were informed of the test results on Saturday evening, after Poland had been identified by Mr Coveney in Ireland.
Irish officials said they made public the results as they got them in the interests of transparency. But Polish officials suggest that, with no pressing food safety concern, commercial or political pressures played a role in Ireland’s actions. “Polish food is safe. It is of the highest quality and . . . outperforms many other products,” said Mr Kalemba. Poland’s food sector was “very important” for the Polish economy, he said, with €17 billion in agri-food exports in 2012, triple the level at EU accession in 2004.
Poland’s agriculture industry had “needed the most work” to modernise ahead of joining the bloc, he said, but today met all EU food safety standards.
“We did the work. We meet all the criteria. Let me just point out here that Polish farmers receive less support than their colleagues in the EU,” he said.
Asked about recent food scandals in Poland, including the use of road salt to cure meat, he denied the Polish food industry was growing faster than safety controls.