ABP hits out at Coveney comments after horse meat report

Group criticises actions of QK Meats over failure to inform authorities of equine DNA

One of Ireland 's largest food companies has hit out at criticism by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney following publication of a report on the horse meat crisis.

ABP Food Group also rounded on competitor QK Meats in Naas, Co Kildare, over its failure to inform the authorities when it discovered equine DNA in imported meat last summer but waited until weeks after the scandal broke two months ago.

In a statement, Larry Goodman 's ABP said it was "bitterly disappointed" with the Minister's remarks and it also found the report's comments on QK Meats "extraordinary".

The group said that had the authorities been aware sooner of equine DNA in beef, “the issue could have been managed very differently and the risk to the Irish agrifood sector significantly reduced”.

The company also said it “has been a victim of the wide-scale European equine fraud and the cost of this, and the specification breach, has been considerable”. It welcomed the report’s acknowledgement that its Nenagh plant was not the source of the meat for a bolognese product sold in Britain.

In a Dáil debate yesterday following publication of an official report into the crisis, Mr Coveney warned that QK Meats and ABP were “risking reputational damage to the Irish food sector”.

He described as "inexcusable" the delay by QK Meats in informing the Department of Agriculture on February 5th of the discovery on June 27th last year of equine DNA in beef trimmings from Poland.

In a separate statement tonight, QK Meats, which is part of the Queally family food businesses, apologised to the department for failing to tell it sooner and it had launched a full investigation.

While noting the Minister had confirmed it had broken no laws, the company acknowledged its “actions fell short” in not contacting the department sooner.

“We have apologised to the department for this, deeply regret it and any breach of trust which it has caused”, it said.

QK Meats said it was in operation for 25 years and “has an exemplary record in terms of food quality and safety standards”.

It said it was co-operating closely with the department and it had “never knowingly incorporate horse meat into any of its beef products” and it reiterated “categorically” that it did not introduce into the food chain any product that tested positive for equine DNA.

Mr Coveney had also criticised ABP for failing to properly maintain oversight of its Silvercrest plant, which he said by using non-approved suppliers had not respected its major customers' specifications.

In its statement, ABP Food Group defended its operations and said it was at the forefront of the successful development of Ireland’s agrifoods exports over many years.