Processed meat DNA test regime announced

Tesco spaghetti bolognese: 60 per cent horse DNA

Tesco spaghetti bolognese: 60 per cent horse DNA

 

Manufacturers of all Irish processed meat products will have to carry out DNA testing under a new regime announced by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney last night.

The announcement came as Tesco said its frozen Everyday Value spaghetti bolognese, which was withdrawn last week, contained horse DNA of more than 60 per cent in some samples. The product was supposed to contain Irish beef.

Tesco withdrew it as a precaution last week because it was supplied by French company Comigel, which also produced Findus beef lasagne that contained up to 100 per cent horse meat.

Investigation

Tesco group technical director Tim Smith said the source of the horse meat was still under investigation by the relevant authorities.

“The level of contamination suggests that Comigel was not following the appropriate production process for our Tesco product and we will not take food from their facility again,” he said. The samples did not show the presence of “bute”, a potentially harmful veterinary medicine.

He said Tesco was “very sorry” that it had let customers down. “Our DNA testing programme is under way and will give us and our customers assurance that the product they buy is what it should be.”

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney said the State’s new testing regime would involve companies working with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to develop testing protocols.

He spoke to his UK counterpart – environment, food and rural affairs secretary Owen Paterson – yesterday and said they had agreed that the Irish and UK food safety authorities would jointly agree an approach for protecting the authenticity of ingredients in meat products.

Mr Coveney said this was now a pan-European problem and he was planning a meeting with EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg to consider the wider EU implications and to see what steps were necessary at EU level to address it.

He said a Polish veterinary delegation would visit Ireland this week to be briefed on the horse meat investigation.

Earlier, the World Horse Welfare charity said there was “huge and widespread abuse” of the horse passport system here. Chief executive Roly Owers said a tripartite agreement that allowed the free movement of sport and race horses between Ireland, Britain and France had been widened some years ago to allow free movement of all horses apart from those going to slaughter.

‘Widespread abuse’

“We know there is widespread abuse of that agreement and the reality is we don’t know how many horses now are being transported between Ireland, the UK and France,” he said.

“It’s totally unregulated and there are big issues around the welfare of those horses, the spread of disease but also, most worryingly of all, there is the parallel criminal activity that goes with that trade,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said the operation of the tripartite agreement was reviewed regularly by the signatory countries to ensure its effectiveness and deal with any matters of concern. She said the welfare of horses was a key priority for Mr Coveney and he urged anyone with evidence of wrongdoing to contact his department.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has called for a programme of random and unannounced DNA testing throughout Europe.