No link with meat firms, says Coveney
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he is not aware of any company involvement in the contamination of burgers. “As far as I can see to date, there is no linkage between some of the companies that have sold product . . . in terms of ownership of companies,” he said.
He said any “inappropriate linkages” would be highlighted, adding that the Dáil should wait until there was a full picture because there were multiple sources for some of the product. “That is the reality of the food industry.”
The Minister had been asked by Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris if any of the companies involved were owned by beef baron Larry Goodman.
Mr Coveney said the problem may have been caused, not by a lack of regulations, but by a lack of respect for them and the need for their enforcement.
“Common standards across the EU require full traceability and accurate labelling,” he said. “If a product comes from one European country into another and is labelled incorrectly, that is a matter of enforcement rather than new regulation.”
Mr Coveney said that traceability and country of origin labelling at European level were being examined. “This incident will help to inform that ongoing debate in terms of the need for more accurate labelling on country of origin.”
Mr Coveney said the type of burger concerned was a frozen product comprising 63 per cent meat, with the remaining ingredients including onion and other filler protein. The protein should have been derived from a beef-sourced product.
“It is of concern that 29 per cent of the meat content of the burger was horse meat, which means that 20 per cent was horse meat overall,” he added.
“It is difficult to explain how that happened and we are taking a tough line with everybody involved to ensure we get the full facts and provide an explanation to this House at the earliest opportunity.”
Mr Coveney said the frozen burgers concerned were sold predominantly in the Irish and British markets, with the vast majority of beef exported to 165 different countries a fresh meat product either on the carcass or processed in some way.
The Government, he added, was taking the matter very seriously, but it did not give rise to food safety issues. “It is not like the dioxin scare in pork or a disease scare in animals. There is no threat to human safety.”
Mr Coveney said it was a question of traceability and labelling and had been flagged because Ireland had a comprehensive system of checks.