Production suspended at Monaghan food plant
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has ordered the involvement of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Department and of the gardai, arising from today's findings.
Production has been suspended at a Monaghan meat processing plant this evening after tests revealed that a raw material ingredient it imported from Poland contained 75 per cent horse meat.
In a statement released by the Department of Agriculture tonight, it said Rangeland Foods in Castleblayney notified it of its use of Polish meat ingredients in the manufacture of certain beef burger lines last Thursday evening "due to the suspicion of the presence of equine DNA"
"The Department took samples of the material concerned from the plant to test for the presence of equine DNA and received results today. In this case the raw material was imported through a meat trader based in Ireland," the statement added.
"Production has been suspended at Rangeland Foods pending the outcome of the investigation. The company has indicated that none of this product has entered the food chain. The Department has had inspectors in the plant since last Friday. The investigation is focusing on the full supply chain including the meat trader concerned and others who facilitated the purchase of the product and its transfer to users in Ireland."
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has ordered the involvement of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Department and of the gardaí, arising from today's findings.
In a statement tonight, Rangeland Foods said the consignment in question was received in early January but did not go into production. It added that 90 per cent of Rangeland’s beef usage is of Irish origin.
One of Rangeland’s customers, fast food chain Supermacs, said tonight all of its burgers were made with 100 per cent Irish beef, fully traceable back to the farm and had been DNA tested to prove it.
“We have been assured by our supplier that the beef that has been and is used in Supermac’s burgers is 100 per cent Irish,” managing director Pat McDonagh said.
“The product in question is an imported product and bears no relevance to Supermac’s meat products which are 100% Irish.”
"Following the beef issue breaking two weeks ago we immediately sought assurances from our supplier and we were guaranteed that our beef was and is 100 per cent Irish beef. This was confirmed both verbally and in writing. Written tests to verify this were also provided by our supplier. We have already tested the product ourselves and have been reassured that it is 100 per cent Irish beef and we will continue to conduct rigorous independent testing."
Mr McDonagh said he was delighted the Department of Agriculture was investigating the matter in depth.
IFA President John Bryan said this evening's results was "further evidence" that only Irish raw material should be used in the manufacture of Irish beef burgers.
Mr Bryan said it was clear that stricter controls must apply to the secondary processing industry, particularly where imported products are being used.
Earlier, Polish companies suspected of involvement in Ireland's horse meat scandal offered to send samples from their factories to Dublin for further tests.
Polish authorities said preliminary tests had shown no equine material in five of six facilities flagged by the Irish authorities.
Mr Coveney is due to appear before the Oireachtas agriculture committee tomorrow to explain how Irish tests of suspect burgers reportedly revealed up to one fifth horse DNA content relative to beef.
The Department of Agriculture said all three burgers containing horse material used offcuts delivered as a frozen block from a processor in Poland to Silvercrest Meats in Ballybay, Co Monaghan.
A spokesman for Mr Coveney said the minister was “110 per cent certain” of the veracity of test results, which were based on an extensive paper trail as well as testing. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Government would take up the Poles on the offer of further testing.
“We have had no official correspondence on the Polish investigation, we don’t know what they have tested and we have no detail or timeline,” said the spokesman. “Until then, we won’t be commenting on anything from the Polish side.”
Polish investigators have questioned the Irish test results, insisting that all animals in Polish abbatoirs are inspected before and after slaughter. In Warsaw today, the head of the Polish investigation insisted that producers from Poland were just one of link in a chain of suspects.
Mr Jaroslaw Naze, deputy chief of Poland’s veterinary inspectorate (GIW), refused to name individual companies on the list his body received from Ireland.
A Polish company named over the weekend in Ireland as the source of the horse meat declined to comment.
“The investigation is still in place. At this stage we are widening the search and have ordered to check the distribution lists of all Polish abbatoirs dealing with equine material,” said Mr Naze. “Polish companies suspected by the Irish are ready to send their meat samples to be examined in Ireland.”