UK retailer Iceland pulls back from criticism of Irish food body

Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 00:00

British food retailer Iceland seemed to pull back from statements made by its chief executive Malcolm Walker criticising tests used by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that found 0.1 per cent horse DNA in two Iceland burger products.

Earlier Mr Walker said the company’s own DNA tests had found no horse meat in its products.

He said the testing methods used by the authority were not accredited in Britain and the current accepted threshold level was 1 per cent, to rule out any accidental cross-contamination.

However, last night a statement from the retailer said it was “grateful” to the authority “for the excellent work it has done in making processors, retailers and consumers aware of the adulteration of beef products by horse meat”.

‘Valid results’

Iceland said it accepted the authority “obtained valid test results from an accredited laboratory using a methodology that is commonly used in the burger industry elsewhere in the world”.

However, it pointed out that the head of the British Food Standards Authority told a House of Commons committee it was “not an accredited test” in the UK. The frozen food retailer also said it accepted “that equine contamination of 0.1 per cent is not acceptable, either to us or our customers”.

Earlier the Irish authority had hit back at criticisms of its DNA testing methods which Mr Walker had made to British trade publication the Grocer.

In a statement, it said a small segment of the retail sector was seeking to undermine the results “in an attempt to distance themselves from the scientifically sound results which have implications for their product”.

Internationally recognised

The authority said the DNA tests were conducted by two internationally recognised laboratories – Identigen in Dublin and Eurofins laboratories in Germany.

The authority noted that the recently proposed EU testing regime used a 1 per cent limit as a cut-off point but said the finding of 0.1 per cent in Iceland’s case was “still relevant and should of itself trigger investigation”.

Food Safety Authority of Ireland chief executive Prof Alan Reilly said it was “unprofessional that a vested interest would seek to undermine our position with misinformation and speculation”. He also said some UK media reports were claiming that the authority did the survey after receiving a tip-off. “The FSAI again states that there is no truth in this whatsoever; the survey was undertaken as part of our routine monitoring.”

Meanwhile, Greencore resumed production at its Bristol plant yesterday, after horse DNA was discovered in a sauce produced at the facility.