Source of horse DNA identified

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Polish ingredients were the likely source of horse meat found at 29 per cent in a Tesco burger made by Silvercrest Foods, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this evening.

He said three burgers produced since the start of January by Silvercrest Foods had tested positive for horse DNA, at levels of seven per cent, 3.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent, relative to beef content. Mr Coveney said the burger which had seven per cent horse DNA contained a significant amount of Polish ingredients and when that raw material was tested, it contained 4.1 per cent horse DNA. The other burgers also contained the Polish material which he described as a beef product made from low value cuts and trimmings. The raw ingredients that went into the burger with 29 per cent horse meat are no longer available as that burger was produced in November.

“We are now in a position to be able to say with a degree of certainty that the horse meat in burgers is likely, is more than likely, to have come from a significant ingredient that has been supplied to the factory now for nearly a year,” he said.

“It’s certainly the likely reason for the 29 per cent horse DNA content in the burger that actually kicked off this whole thing.”

Mr Coveney said there was no evidence that the ABP Food Group, which owns Silvercrest Foods, had knowingly imported product containing horse meat.

He said he had asked the company to source all product from Ireland and the UK from now on. “Secondly they have agreed to change the management at Silvercrest. Thirdly they have agreed to remove all product from the Silvercrest facility,” he said. It was also agreed that the Department of Agriculture would have a presence in the plant for at least six months.

A statement from ABP confirmed that a new management team would be appointed to the facility and said ABP had undertaken a group reorganisation. “With immediate effect responsibility for the Silvercrest business will transfer to ABP Ireland - the Irish chilled beef division. The sister business in the UK, Dalepak Foods, will come under the immediate control of ABP UK - the UK chilled beef business.”

A statement from Tesco welcomed the news and said the findings correlated with the results of its own investigations at the plant. “We will give detailed consideration to all the findings during next week,” the statement said.

Burger King, which said last week it was replacing Silvercrest Foods as its supplier, welcomed the confirmation that no horse DNA was found in tests of its products. “We want to apologise to our guests who may have been concerned by the news of a breach at one of our suppliers and we will dedicate ourselves to determining where the breakdown occurred, what lessons can be learned and what additional measures should be taken to ensure that we always provide our guests the high quality products they expect from us,” the statement said.

IFA president John Bryan said these results should bring a definitive conclusion to this issue. “The Minister also confirmed that all tests of Irish ingredients are clear of equine DNA. This will provide the necessary reassurance to consumers and buyers about the integrity and reputation of Irish-produced food”.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association president Gabriel Gilmartin said farmers had been let down by industry. “There are now serious questions to be asked about why Polish ingredients were going into Irish beef burgers even though Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in the Northern hemisphere," he said. “ICSA welcomes the new stringent terms that will apply but Irish farmers will feel very let down by what has happened. The Department must learn the lesson that there has been too much focus on farms and not enough on meat processors.”