Tipperary food firm drawn into horse meat scandal


Another Irish-owned food company has been drawn into the horse meat scandal with the news that Oak Farm Foods produced the cottage pies that were withdrawn from British school kitchens by Lancashire County Council last week.

Oak Farm Foods is the UK division of Dawn Fresh Foods, the Fethard, Co Tipperary-based convenience food company.

On Friday, Lancashire county council said it had withdrawn the cottage pies from 47 school kitchens after samples provisionally tested positive for traces of horse DNA.

Oak Farm Foods said it had launched a full internal investigation into the matter. “The product has been recalled from the customer,” it said in a statement.

It said Oak Farm Foods had produced ready meals, soups and sauces for the past 25 years “and has an exemplary record in terms of food quality and safety standards”.

‘New regime’

“While the company carries out extensive testing on all its products, DNA testing has not been widely available or the norm in the industry. However, given recent issues, Oak Farm Foods has instigated a new regime that includes DNA tests. We can confirm that all tests for equine DNA on products to date have tested negative.”

Dawn Fresh Foods is part of the Queally Group which also owns QK Cold Stores in Naas. On Friday, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said QK Cold Stores had told his department it had found horse DNA in consignments of frozen beef trimmings imported from Poland.

These consignments were either returned to the Polish companies concerned or were under detention by the department at the cold store. Mr Coveney said the company had confirmed that none of the consignments that tested positive for horse meat were released on to the market.

Dawn Meats, which produces burgers for McDonald’s, has stressed that Dawn Fresh Foods and Oak Farm Foods and are not members of the Dawn Meats group.

Both Dawn Meats and McDonald’s said Oak Farm Foods and Dawn Fresh Foods were “completely separate entities” from Dawn Meats. “There is no question of any crossover of product into the McDonald’s supply chain.” a spokeswoman for McDonald’s said. Members of the Queally family are shareholders in both Dawn Fresh Foods and Dawn Meats.

It is almost six weeks since the presence of horse meat in beef products was highlighted by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Intensive DNA testing of meat products is under way throughout Europe.

Large-scale testing

On Friday, EU member states approved a plan for large-scale testing of beef products for horse DNA. The Department of Agriculture said testing under this programme would begin this week and Ireland would submit all related results from the initial month of testing to the European Commission by April 15th.

Some 2,250 samples of beef products will be taken across the EU while member states will carry out at least five tests each on horse meat to see if they contain bute, a potentially harmful veterinary medicine.

Separately, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture are working with the meat processing sector on a national protocol for DNA testing of meat.