ALL OPERATIONS AT a Carrick on Suir meat plant have been suspended after it was discovered they were sending horsemeat via a UK trader to the Czech republic labelled as ‘beef’.
The announcement came today as Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney announced new control measures in the wake of the equine DNA investigation.
It has been discovered that B&F Meats, a small scale plant approved to debone beef and horsemeat, was despatching some horsemeat to a single customer in the Czech Republic via a UK based trader using a label in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef.
The Department has suspended all operations at the plant with immediate effect.
Officers from the Department’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) have entered the plant this afternoon to carry out a full investigation.
The Minister said:
I am seriously concerned about this development and the gardaí have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my Department. The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.
The investigation led by the (SIU) continues in conjunction with the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and involves forensic examination of electronic data and records associated with consignments of beef products. It also involves detailed inspections of certain food business operators including traders, transporters, processers and exporters.
The SIU is also liaising with counterparts in other Member States and Europol in relation to this pan European investigation. It was as part of this investigation that the latest discovery was made.
More DNA tests on food
The Minister said that 50 additional food samples will be checked for horse DNA during March in Ireland.
He has agreed this as part of the EU-wide programme to investigate food fraud “in order to restore consumer confidence and to establish the extent of the problem across the EU”.
The Commission will grant financial support to Member States to carry out the plan at a rate of 75 per cent of the costs. The controls are to run for one month initially and may be extended for a further two months. The results of these tests will be published.
Officials from the Department together with the FSAI have met with representatives from the meat processing, retailing and catering sectors and agreed a protocol for DNA testing of beef products to check for adulteration with horse meat.
The following categories of food are being tested:
- Pre-packaged beef products on sale to the final consumer or to mass caterers
- Beef products offered for sale without pre-packaging to consumers or to mass caterers
- Meat ingredients used in processed beef products.
The results will be made known to the public. In addition to the EU-wide control programme for residues of Bute, the Department is introducing a positive release programme for horses destined for the food chain.
Only horse meat testing negative for residues of phenylbutazone (“Bute”) will be allowed on the market. This programme will run for an initial period of one month.
The Department has requested that passport issuing organisations provide details of equine animals registered and passports issued by them since 1 January 1980 to date and the exit status of the animals.
This database will be used at abattoirs to verify the authenticity of the passport for the equine presented and to record its date of slaughter.
The FSAI is coordinating an enhanced inspection programme with the HSE and local authorities of cold stores and wholesalers to authenticate providence and accuracy of labelling of beef raw ingredients used in the manufacture of processed meat products.
The Minister, in his role as Chairman of the Council, has arranged to hold a special debate on the horsemeat scandal under the Irish Presidency at next Monday’s Council of Agriculture and Fisheries meeting.