Test results on burger samples due today
The Department of Agriculture will release test results today which should shed more light on the horse meat content of burgers produced by Silvercrest Foods, the plant at the centre of the controversy over horse meat in burgers.
Last week a Food Safety Authority of Ireland study found that a burger produced by the ABP-owned facility in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, contained 29 per cent horse DNA, relative to meat content.
New samples were taken last week from burgers produced at the plant before that study was published. Preliminary results found horse DNA in one sample of raw ingredients, out of seven samples tested.
Ingredients from that sample came from abroad. Of the 13 finished burgers tested, horse DNA was found in nine samples. The positive samples were sent to Germany to quantify the percentage of horse DNA present and those results are expected to be made public today.
Yesterday Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was no surprise Burger King had decided to replace Silvercrest Foods as its supplier as the facility was temporarily closed while investigations were continuing.
On Wednesday the fast-food chain said it was sourcing other approved suppliers to replace burgers produced by Silvercrest. It did not say if this was a temporary arrangement. Neither would it say how much the contract was worth, although some reports have suggested it could be close to €30 million.
“It was predictable enough that Burger King would source elsewhere – one, because they can’t get product from Silvercrest; but also because, like everybody else, I think, they want to get to the bottom of how horse meat got into a beefburger,” Mr Coveney said.
Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív has called on Mr Coveney to spell out exactly what contact he had made with Burger King and other major customers since the controversy began.
Asked if he had had discussions with Burger King, Mr Coveney said: “I’ve had discussions with a number of people that are clients of Silvercrest but I’d rather not go into those discussions . . . obviously part of my job is to reassure people that buy Irish food and I’m doing that”.
The ABP Food Group has stressed that all Burger King products were manufactured on a separate line and stored separately and there was no evidence of contamination.
Mr Coveney also rejected criticism that the department was taking too long to identify the source of the horse meat found in burgers.
“If you look at the complexity of what we are examining at the moment . . . you’ll see there are over 40 different suppliers into this processing facility,” he said. Officials had taken more than 130 samples for testing in recent weeks. He said it was important not to jump to conclusions based on hunches and rumours.