Beef burger horse meat scandal ‒ in quotes

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Horsegate: 'The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry,' said the NFU
Horsegate: 'The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry,' said the NFU
Prime minister David Cameron, Sir Paul McCartney and Tim Smith, Tesco’s group technical director and former Food Standards Agency boss, all feature in this collection of quotes about the discovery of horse and pig DNA in beef burgers sold by Tesco, Iceland and other retailers. Here’s a snapshot of the crisis ‒ in quotes ‒ from the key players and leading opinion-formers.

David Cameron, ​Prime Minster:“This is a completey unacceptable state of affairs. But it is worth making the point that ultimately retailers have to be responsible for what they sell and where it has come from."

Sir Paul McCartney: “It won’t be the supermarkets who are responsible​ [for the horse meat contamination of  beef burgers]. They will have put in place every safeguard they can find.

“It will be a supplier ‒ someone who said: ‘Go on: whack in a bit of that ​[horse meat] mate. They’ll never know’.”

Peter Kendall​, National Farmers Union president: “The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry. Farmers are rightly angry that the integrity of stringent UK-farmed products is being compromised by using cheaper imported alternatives.”

Tesco: “We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise. So here is our promise. We will find out exactly what happened and, when we do, we’ll come back and tell you.

And we will work harder with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again.” 

The ABP Food Group​: ““Following receipt of this evening’s Irish Department of Agriculture results, we believe that we have established the source of the contaminated material​ to one of these suppliers.”

“This issue only affects frozen beef burgers supplied by Silvercrest Foods and Dalepak Hambleton and, while there is no food safety issue, a full withdrawal was implemented.”

Tim Smith, ​Tesco’s group technical director: “Our investigation will get to the bottom of who is responsible, how it happened and how long it has been going on.

“There are only two ways it could have happened – illegality or gross negligence.”

John Sleith​, chairman the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland: “We note that statements are being made that it is not a health issue, but our concern is that there is no information on how the horse meat came to be in the burgers and so there is no way of telling whether the meat is safe to eat – it could be from diseased or injured animals, for example.”

Royal Sociey for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals​: “Transportation and slaughter of horses for meat are issues of particular concern for the RSPCA. Many horses are transported live to the continent where their ultimate fate is unknown, but many may well be slaughtered. Once there, it’s difficult to monitor whether EU transportation legislation is met and if the animals are slaughtered humanely.”

Simon Coveney​, Irish agricultural minister: “A survey was carried out at the end of November on frozen burgers – the cheapest you can buy in the supermarkets – and the results were passed to me last night [January 15]. One of the tests of 27 showed there was quite a significant horse meat content. 29% of the meat content was horse meat, which obviously I was concerned about.”

Liffey Meats: “Liffey Meats has never produced, purchased or traded in any equine products.”

“We now believe that such imported raw ingredients were the ultimate source of the DNA traces found in some of our products.”

Iceland: "Iceland will be working closely with its suppliers to investigate this issue and to ensure that all Iceland brand products meet the high standards of quality and integrity that we specify and which our customers are entitled to expect," it said.

Lidl: "We understand the implications of porcine DNA being found in products where this is not specified and would like to apologise for any distress this may have caused our customers. We would like to assure our customers that we are taking this matter extremely seriously and are conducting thorough investigations into this matter."

Stephen Rossides, the British Meat Processing Association: “The great bulk of food products, including meat and meat products, are safe, produced to good quality standards and correctly described and labelled by food manufacturers. UK consumers can trust the food they buy.

"But this episode – rare and unusual though it is – undermines consumer confidence and trust in the meat industry, and causes reputational damage to it. We must get to the bottom of what went wrong and why, and how such an incident can be prevented in the future.”

Alan Reilly​, chief executive Food Standards Agency of Ireland: "While there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products, due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horsemeat in their production process.”

“We do not expect to find it in a burger; likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.”

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