THE INVESTIGATION INTO the horse DNA found in burgers sold in Irish supermarkets was dealt with on an individual basis, the FSAI and Department of Agriculture confirmed today.
A Department of Agriculture spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that communication between the FSAI and the Department over such food investigations is “handled on a case-by-case basis”.
It emerged yesterday that Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, was informed about the results of tests on the burgers on Monday 14 January, and that the FSAI received results of German laboratory tests on Friday 11 January.
The Department of Agriculture was requested by the FSAI on 21 December 2012 to take samples of ingredients at the two processing plants of concern.
The testing began in mid-November when the first samples were taken by the FSAI and sent for analysis to a private laboratory. Further samples were taken at retail level again December and analysed in the private laboratory in Ireland, and following on from this, all of the initial samples which tested positive were sent for analysis in late December to a lab in Germany.
This was to confirm the accuracy of the initial tests.
When the Department was informed about the results on 14 January, it immediately began a full scale investigation, said Minister Coveney.
An FSAI spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the association carries out tests on food on a regular basis, and that they would flag any issues with the Department of Agriculture or the HSE, or whatever appropriate group they need to inform. The procedure would depend on the initial results they get.
They carried out a number of tests on the beef burgers to ensure that that the initial results were correct and hadn’t been contaminated in a lab, she said.
Today in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin questioned Minister Brendan Howlin on the issue, asking for the second day in a row why there was a delay between the initial test results being received and Minister Coveney being informed about the presence of horse and pig DNA in the beef products.
He asked Minister Howlin if he thought this was “acceptable”, particularly given that department officials were informed by the FSAI before the Minister.
Minister Martin also noted that 20,000 horses were slaughtered last year in Ireland, and asked if the Government would commit to establishing a traceability regime.
Minister Howlin said that he believes Ireland has a high standard of oversight of food production, “the best, I would say, in the world”. He reiterated that this is not a public health issue and said it it is an issue that doesn’t relate to food safety, but relates to food standards.
He noted that the results of the most recent testing will be available this afternoon. “It is important that we approach this entire episode in a completely open and transparent way.”