Food producers test for kangaroo and dog, conference told

Steps to prevent other species entering food chain taken after horse meat crisis

The horse meat crisis has led the world's largest food manufacturer Nestle to test for the presence of meat such as kangaroo and dog, head of food safety at the firm's research centre Dr John O'Brien said yesterday.

Dr O'Brien, a former head of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, said people working in food safety had now become molecular detectives. "Not only are we concerned with horse, we are also keeping an eye on kangaroo, dogs, goats and a few other species and asking questions. Could any of these find their way into the food chain? So we have probes for all of those."

Dr O'Brien was speaking at the Agricultural Science Association conference in Waterford yesterday. Nestle was one of many food companies drawn into the horse meat crisis earlier this year. It had to withdraw product in Italy, Spain and France after it was found to contain horse DNA.

ABP Food Group was one of the companies at the centre of the horse meat controversy and had to sell its Silvercrest burger production plant in the wake of the crisis but yesterday ABP chief executive Paul Finnerty told the 300 delegates that the company was "standing tall" after the crisis and its customer base was intact. "We didn't lose any customers in our chilled beef business and I think it's fair to say that the reputation of Irish beef internationally has not been damaged," he said. "We're still in the business of frozen burgers in the UK and continue to serve five of the top seven retailers in that particular market place."

Earlier Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said 15 new markets had opened to Irish food, predominantly Irish beef, in the past year. "In my view our reputation as a food producer has actually been enhanced by those challenges in the early part of the year, rather than damaged. The proof of that is in the demand for Irish beef."

Mr Coveney said he would be promoting the agri-food industry in the Gulf region next month while Taoiseach Enda Kenny will travel to Japan later this year.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times

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