Food watchdog uncovers contamination


The discovery of horse meat in some burgers was made after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland conducted a study to examine the authenticity of a number of beef burger, beef meal and salami products available in shops.

As well as detecting the presence of horse and pig DNA in some burgers, it also tested 31 beef meal products such as cottage pie, beef curry pie and lasagne.

Some 21 were found to have pig DNA but no traces of horse DNA were found. All 19 salami products analysed tested negative for horse DNA.

Traces of horse DNA were, however, detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some from the Netherlands and Spain.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said while the burgers may be made of Irish beef, they could also include added ingredients, perhaps to bind the product together.

“It is that added product, that by and large was imported, that we suspect may be the source of the problem,” he said.

Authority chief executive Prof Alan Reilly said the products identified as containing horse DNA or pig DNA did not pose any food safety risk but still raised concerns.

Plausible explanation

There was a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA because meat from different animals was processed in the same meat plants but “there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process”, he said.

“In Ireland it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and, therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger. Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable. We are working with the meat processing plants the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products.”

Ibec Meat Industry Ireland director Cormac Healy said the sample results suggested that this was a case of non-deliberate cross-contamination from raw material supplied for processing.

“The companies concerned are co-operating fully with the authorities to identify the source of the problem and address the issue.”

The supermarkets and meat plants involved have expressed concern and said they were investigating the issue.