FF queries delay in telling Coveney of horse meat result
It is unacceptable that the Minister for Agriculture was only informed two months after initial findings that horse meat had been found in a beef burger tested by the food safety authority, the Dáil has heard.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin questioned why Simon Coveney was told only this week of the results of tests, carried out on burger meat in November and again in December, which proved positive for horse meat content.
In the ongoing controversy over the discovery of horse DNA in burgers, Mr Martin said the first batch of tests was completed at the end of November and proved positive for contamination. Further tests in December also proved positive, he said. “It’s not good enough to say it had to be confirmed in Germany before the Minister was told.”
But Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the Mr Coveney was informed once the “conclusive results” were received from a German laboratory.
Describing Ireland as having the best regulatory system in the world, he said that after the initial tests in November and December, the positive samples went to Germany and its laboratory gave the conclusive results on Friday to the food safety authority. It informed the department on Monday, when the Minister was informed.
Mr Howlin said the Fianna Fáil leader was “going into a level of detail now” and because of the importance of the food industry on which 100,000 jobs were dependent, “we must do this in a measured, open, transparent way”.
Mr Howlin told the Dáil that “all of this, the sequence of events, the degree of knowledge and the quality of the result can be put in clear questions to the Minister for Agriculture. He will lay it out in a completely open and transparent way.”
The controversy was raised in the House of Commons and British prime minister David Cameron described the issue as a completely unacceptable state of affairs. But Mr Howlin said the UK “does not do the level of testing we do here”.
He said the food industry was critical to Ireland’s economy and jobs. “That is why we have such a high standard of oversight of food production in this country. It is the best, I would say, in the world.”
Mr Martin had also called for a traceability system to be introduced for horse meat because he said the number of horses slaughtered in Ireland had rocketed last year to 20,000. Traceability systems to locate the source of meat are in place for pigs, cattle and sheep.
The Minister said questions of traceability could be addressed once all the issues around the findings by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which tested 27 frozen beef burger products, had been examined.