THE MINISTER FOR Agriculture has criticised a number of Irish companies embroiled in the ongoing European-wide horsemeat scandal.
In a report published today, Simon Coveney said that certain practices by Silvercrest and QK Cold Stores were “totally unacceptable”.
The investigation into the mislabelling of beef products revealed that although Silvercrest did not knowingly purchase horsemeat, it did use non-approved suppliers, breaching the specifications laid down by its major customers.
In itself, it is not a food safety or quality issue but the report described it as a management failure and an “inherent disrespect for customer requirements”.
In relation to QK Cold Stores, the probe found that the company had tested product for equine DNA and had received positive results as early as June 2012. The information was withheld from authorities. At the time, management contacted the Polish supplier who arranged for the return of the consignment.
Further positive results were returned in October to December last year and the product sent back. The authorities were still not informed.
Although QK Meats says it did not allow the raw material enter the food chain, it admitted that it continued to source the product from Poland. The department has since established that the price of the ingredient was about €400 per tonne less than the beef trimmings available to buy in Ireland.
The report said, “It is clear that in a country that is a net exporter of beef products, this competitive pricing aspect of the trade is the primary motivator in utilising imported ingredients in the manufacturing process.”
The firm did not explain fully to investigators why it was testing for equine DNA since last June, other than suggesting there were “mumblings” in the trade about suspect Polish raw materials.
“These facts would have informed the official investigation in a significant way and, most likely would have led to earlier conclusions on the source of equine DNA. Failure on their part to act at a much earlier time was inexcusable.”
The report continues: “This failure on the part of QK Meats senior management showed scant regard for the public good.”
QK Meats was named as the source of horsemeat contamination in Birds Eye’s implicated products.
The plant remains under investigation.