Martin calls for independent horse meat inquiry

Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 00:00

What is required is a full, transparent, comprehensive and independent inquiry, at one remove from the industry and the department, to get to the bottom of this issue

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called for an independent inquiry into horse meat in beef burgers. Mr Martin said the Department of Agriculture had stated that no report would be published following its investigation.

“I put it to the Taoiseach that what is required now is a full, transparent, comprehensive and independent inquiry, at one remove from the industry and the department, to get to the bottom of this issue once and for all,” he said. “That is the only way to protect the customer and the industry.”

No health issue

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney had been at pains to point out that there was no health issue involved for the consumer. “The requirement is to get to the bottom of this issue and to ascertain the facts and truth,” said Mr Kenny.

The Taoiseach said the studies and tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland had been exceptionally competent. It was because of the nature and the accuracy of the tests that the matter came to light in the first place, he said.

Mr Kenny said the Minister had requested a special investigation unit in the department to work with gardaí in pursuing the discovery of equine DNA in raw material at Rangeland Foods in Monaghan. It was important, said Mr Kenny, not to prejudice the outcome of any investigation in any way by jumping to conclusions that might not be accurate.

“Changes will apply from this situation but it is necessary in the interests of the consumer, the industry and the jobs in the industry that the veracity be established, the truth be known and that action be taken quickly, conclusively and comprehensively,” he added.

Origin unknown

Mr Martin said the real crunch issue was that everyone kept saying the food was safe. Scientists and experts in Britain had queried that ringing assertion on the basis that the origin of the horse meat was unknown.

“Can we be absolutely sure that horse meat, legally or illegally slaughtered in the country, is not now finding its way into the food chain?” said Mr Martin. “Can we say this with any confidence given what has occurred?”

Mr Kenny said it was important to note that in the case of Silvercrest there was a clear paper trail involved which suggested the product was bought directly from Poland. In the case of Rangeland Foods, a Polish-labelled raw material ingredient was sourced through a meat trader in Ireland.

Earlier, Mr Martin said the Government’s primary instinct had been to protect the industry as opposed to vindicating the right of the consumer who ate the burger in the belief that it contained what was stated on the package. “The customer has been profoundly let down by these revelations,” he added.