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.