DEPUTY Patrick O’Donovan has stressed the huge contribution of the beef industry to County Limerick’s economy following the horse burger scandal.
Horse and pig meat were found in beef burgers in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland conducted a probe into meats for sale.
Ten from a total of 27 burgers had traces of horse DNA.
Two leading Irish meat processing plants - Silvercrest in Monaghan and Liffey Meats in Cavan - are at the centre of the probe after the beef burgers they produced were found to contain other meats.
Ten million burgers suspected of containing some levels of horse meat are expected to be destroyed.
Meanwhile, ABP Food Group, who own Silvercrest Foods, have issued a statement saying “all Burger King products produced by us are stored separately and manufactured on an independent line”. There are two Burger King outlets in Limerick.
“There is no evidence of any contamination of raw material used for the manufacture of any Burger King products,” read the statement.
Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney said additives sourced from abroad and used to bind the meat were suspected to contain the horse DNA.
Mr O’Donovan has welcomed the manner in Minister Coveney moved to reassure people of the safety of Irish Beef.
“We have a safe food industry here in Ireland with the highest standards of traceability and food safety. The food industry as a whole makes a huge contribution to the national economy and the local economy of County Limerick, that is why the response from the Minister to this issue is proportionate and measured to reassure consumers of Irish food that it is among the most traceable and safest of any country in the world,” said Mr O’Donovan.
“Irish food producers and processors go to great lengths every day to ensure that the food they produce is traceable and safe,” he added.
Last night Minister Coveney announced preliminary laboratory results that indicate the presence of equine DNA in samples of burgers taken by the Department on Tuesday, January 15, from product manufactured in one plant (Silvercrest) in the period January 3 - 14. These products were already withdrawn by the company from the market.
Seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another member state, tested positive. All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for equine DNA.
Thirteen samples of finished burgers were tested for the presence of equine DNA. Nine have tested positive for traces of equine DNA and another four have tested negative.
The Department informed Silvercrest of these further laboratory test results on Thursday evening and the company has indicated its intention to temporarily suspend all production at the plant with immediate effect until it completes its investigation. It has confirmed that this week’s production has not been released from the plant.
In conclusion, the Minister Coveney said that the investigation will continue to conclusively establish the source of the equine DNA. The focus of the investigation is now to establish a common ingredient used in the manufacture of burgers in all plants and from where it was sourced.