Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting TIMES NEWS to 80360, or email us
Horse meat: Europe firms suspected
Suppliers in continental Europe are suspected of being the source of horse meat found in beef products, a processing firm has claimed.
Scientific tests found traces of horse DNA in burgers on sale in some of the UK and Ireland's leading supermarkets. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) found low levels of horse in beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores.
Burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and one UK plant, Dalepak Hambleton. Silvercrest, a subsidiary of ABP Foods, said it was pulling products from sale and replacing them with new lines.
A spokesman said: "Following tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, we have been alerted to frozen beefburgers which contain porcine and equine DNA. Although the products pose no risk to public health, Silvercrest has taken immediate action to isolate, withdraw and replace all suspect products. Silvercrest has never purchased or traded in equine product and has launched a full-scale investigation into two continental European third-party suppliers who are the suspected source of the product in question."
According to the research by the FSAI, one sample - Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers - showed about 29% horse meat relative to beef content.
Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said there was no health risk but also no reasonable explanation for horse meat to be found.
The retailers have told food safety chiefs they are removing all implicated products from their shelves. Tim Smith, group technical director at Tesco, said: "We are working with the authorities in Ireland and the UK, and with the supplier concerned, to urgently understand how this has happened and how to ensure it does not happen again." Aldi said it was conducting its own investigation. In a statement, Lidl said it has taken the decision to remove all implicated products from sale pending a full investigation.
Simon Coveney, Ireland's Agriculture and Food Minister, said the source of the food alert appeared to be companies in the Netherlands and Spain. He added: "What seems to have happened here is that the extra ingredient that was added was imported. There is no evidence to suggest that Silvercrest knowingly imported ingredients that had horse meat in it."
Paul Finnerty, chief executive at Silvercrest, said the controversy was extremely disappointing for the company, retailers and consumers. He told RTE Radio: "We don't buy any horse meat, and the product in question from the suppliers, that's being examined at the moment. It will take two or three days to get to the bottom of that."
Meanwhile, the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had launched its own inquiry and UK Prime Minister David Cameron said retailers had to take responsibility for what was a "completely unacceptable state of affairs". He told MPs he had ordered the FSA investigation, saying: "They will be meeting retailers and processors this afternoon. They will be working with them to investigate the supply chain. But it is worth making the point that ultimately retailers have to be responsible for what they sell and where it has come from."