Speaking after tests confirmed horse DNA in frozen beef at Freeza Meats’ cold store in Northern Ireland, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said: “If there was criminal activity, the police should investigate.”
McGuinness said that the revelation damaged the country’s reputation for top class meat.
His comments followed FSA confirmation that two of 12 meat samples held in the cold store contained about 80% horse meat.
80% horse meat
Freeza Meats, based in Newry, was storing the meat for a company in the Irish Republic, according to BBC reports. DNA tests by Newry and Mourne Council revealed the firm’s own burgers contained no horse DNA.
The authorities are investigating the source of the contamination but said the consignment was “potentially linked to the Silvercrest factory in the Republic of Ireland”.
The FSA confirmed no contaminated meat entered the food chain.
Last week Unite the union confirmed that the jobs of 112 Silvercrest workers were under threat after Burger King, Tesco and the Co-operative Group all cancelled contracts with the firm after it supplied beef burgers contaminated with horse DNA.
In a separate development, Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney asked the police to investigate the circumstances surrounding the discovery of beef products contaminated with horse DNA at a third factory in the Irish Republic.
Production at Rangeland Foods in County Monagham was halted after tests revealed 75% horse DNA in meat filler ingredient imported from Poland.
Coveney said: “The company has indicated that none of this product has entered the food chain. The department is has had inspectors in the plant since last Friday [February 1].
“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.”
Beef from Poland
Rangeland Foods confirmed in a statement that it had “temporarily suspended production of beef following the interception of beef from Poland which tested positive for equine DNA”.
The firm said the consignment was received in early January and did not go into production. It had temporarily suspended production to permit a full investigation.
It added: “90% of Rangeland’s beef usage is of Irish origin.”
Meawhile, the FSA agreed with meat industry representatives this week (February 4) to publish the results of DNA meat testing in a bid to restore consumers’ flagging faith in meat traceability systems.
Speaking after the meeting, food and farming minister David Heath said: “This is a shared problem, and it needs shared solutions. Food businesses' agreement to give regular update on meat testing is a significant move that will give consumers confidence in what they're buying. It's now important that the industry starts sharing this information as soon as possible.”
Catherine Brown, FSA chief executive, said the agreement would help to “maintain consumer confidence in the food that people eat”.
The FSA is now working with the food industry to agree a standardised sampling and testing system.
- Northern Ireland police should investigate if criminal activity involved in the contamination of frozen beef with horse DNA at Freeza Meats
- Irish police probe beef contaminated with horse DNA at Rangeland Foods in Eire
- FSA investigates frozen meat contaminated with horse DNA in Northern Ireland
- FSA agrees to publish results of DNA meat testing to “maintain public confidence”.