Positive DNA tests on beef in Kildare cold store, Coveney
A French butcher cuts a piece of horsemeat on a block in a horse butchery shop in Marseille. Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
The Department of Agriculture investigation into the presence of horse meat in beef products focused on a cold store in Naas this week, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said tonight.
He said QK Cold Stores had informed the department that consignments of frozen beef trimmings imported from Poland were tested by them and some showed positive for horse DNA.
These consignments were either returned to the Polish companies concerned or were under detention by the department at the cold store. Mr Coveney said the company had confirmed that none of the consignments that tested positive for horse meat were released onto the market.
Mr Coveney also said the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and his department had met with the meat processing sector yesterday to agree a national protocol for DNA testing of meat to be applied at retail, catering and processing level.
“We intend to introduce DNA testing from now on as part of routine food testing across the country,” he said.
The industry had already been involved in testing more than 200 samples and results received by the FSAI negative for equine DNA. A further five products tested positive but they had already been removed from the market because they were identified as a problem.
Mr Coveney said a more comprehensive testing regime for horse meat was also being drawn up to provide full reassurance that no illegal slaughterings were taking place.
“We have made significant steps forward this week in our investigations nationally but also in securing a significant response at European level to this ongoing controversy,” he said.
“Our investigation continues and information is being shared bilaterally with other competent authorities and with Europol.
Earlier European Union governments agreed an EU-wide programme of DNA tests on beef products to assess the scale of the horse meat scandal.
The initial one-month testing plan will also check horse meat for potentially harmful drug residues, after six horses slaughtered in the UK tested positive for the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, which is illegal in meat for human consumption. Initial results from the test are expected by mid-April.
The European Commission's health chief said: "I welcome the swift approval by the member states of the plan I tabled two days ago and I call on them to keep up the pressure in their efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events."
Mr Coveney said earlier agreement had been reached at a European level on new tests for horse DNA.
The first round of tests will be carried out by the end of March and results will have to be reported to the European Commission by April 15th, he said. The EC will fund three quarters of the cost of the first month's testing. "This testing will contribute to a clearer understanding of the situation across Europe," Mr Coveney said.
The announcement is the latest development in the horse meat controversy which has engulfed the European food industry.
Northern Ireland confirmed today that burgers containing horse had been supplied to hospitals across the region from Monaghan-based Rangeland Foods.
The company is continuing to withdraw 9,200 burgers after tests found some samples contained between 5 and 30 per cent horse meat. The company said it was likely some of the burgers had already been eaten.
The North's health minister Edwin Poots said today that a range of products were withdrawn from hospitals once the problem had been discovered. Mr Poots said the North's Business Services Organisation, which provides meat for the health trusts, was unlikely to source produce from the Monaghan supplier again.
"I don't think we will be going back to Rangeland unless they can clearly demonstrate that they have full and proper access to the chain that has delivered meat to them and they can ensure that there is no possibility of other products entering (the chain)."
In a separate development, Irish catering company Compass admitted tests confirmed the presence of horse DNA in burgers it supplied to a number of businesses in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.
The company said laboratory tests on a sample of burgers produced by Compass identified a small amount of horse DNA. In response, the company has withdrawn all of these burger products. It said the contaminated meat had also been sourced from Rangeland Foods.
In the UK the Food Standards Agency tonight announced it had carried out three more raids in relation to the horse meat scandal, two in London and one in Hull.
One of the plants raided in north London, Dinos and Sons Continental Foods, this evening confirmed it was “co-operating with local trading standards officers and the FSA”.
The company said it had been asked to clarify its position in relatino to the " transportation and storage of frozen beef that was imported by, and belonged to, a third party that the FSA is investigating". It did not keep the frozen beef in the same premises as its own products, it said.
“At no time has Dinos and Sons produced or manufactured anything that is under investigation or is the subject of any possible contamination or mislabelling," it said.
UK authorities confirmed today that cottage pie testing positive for horse meat were delivered to schools in Lancashire. The county council said it has withdrawn the pre-prepared beef product from 47 school kitchens.
Lancashire county councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "We share the concerns people have about what is clearly a major problem in food supplies across the UK and Europe.
Britain's food regulator said today it had found 29 positive tests for horse meat after demanding samples from UK retailers linked to the contamination scandal.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had conducted 2,501 tests, 2,472 of which had come back negative for horsemeat levels above 1 per cent, with 29 results testing positive for horse meat levels above 1 per cent. It said all products that tested positive had already been announced and appropriate steps taken.
The FSA said it had asked the industry to test for horse down to a level of 1 per cent as some laboratories can only test accurately to that level, and that it believed any level above that was not going to be accidental.
Meanwhile, the heads of some of Britain's biggest food retailers and producers joined forces today in an attempt to regain consumer trust in meat products as the scandal over mislabeled horse produce spreads around Europe.
"The food industry is determined to restore consumer confidence in the food we sell as quickly as possible," the 11 chief executive officers, including Tesco's Philip Clarke, Asda Stores's Andy Clarke, Justin King from J Sainsbury and Dalton Philips of William Morrison Supermarkets, said in a joint letter published in the UK today.
While the food industry chiefs said in the letter that "fraudulent activity or even as alleged, an international criminal conspiracy" may be to blame, UK prime minister David Cameron said retailers "bear a real responsibility," as "at the end of the day they are putting products on their shelves."
Yesterday, Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat. Asda withdrew three other Greencore products "as a precautionary measure" but they did not test positive for equine DNA.
In a statement, Greencore said the beef was supplied to it by the ABP Food Group’s Nenagh plant in Co Tipperary. The Larry Goodman-controlled ABP also owns Silvercrest Foods, whose factory in Co Monaghan was one of the first whose products tested positive for horse DNA last month.
Greencore’s chief executive is Patrick Coveney, brother of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
An ABP spokesman said the company “reiterates that we have never knowingly purchased or processed equine meat.”
Separately the president of French meat processor Spanghero today promised to disprove allegations that his firm knowingly sold horsemeat labelled as beef, and accused the government of being too quick to point the finger.
The French government yesterday accused meat processing company Spanghero of knowingly selling horse meat labelled as beef. The company in southern France had its licence suspended yesterday. The French government said it believed the practice went on for six months and involved about 750 tonnes of meat. Spanghero rejected these accusations and said it placed an order for beef and believed it had received beef .
In the widening scandal, Dutch inspectors have begun taking samples to discover whether shipments contained a drug given to some horses that is banned for animals intended for human consumption.