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Eamon Gilmore, Ruairí Quinn and Brendan Howlin during Leaders' Questions this morning Oireachtas website
Leaders' Questions

Gilmore clarifies when government found out about 'horse burgers'

The Tánaiste told the Dáil that the first samples were collected for testing in mid-November and full results were received last Friday.

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has clarified the timing of when the government was made aware that horse and pig DNA had been found in beef products in Irish supermarkets.

The Labour leader told the Dáil this morning that the first samples were collected for testing in mid November and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland received the full results last Friday.

The Department of Agriculture was informed of the results on Monday 14 January at a lunchtime meeting with the FSAI where Gilmore said implications of the revelation were evaluated and discussed. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney was informed after the meeting on Monday and he told the Cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday, Eamon Gilmore said.

He was responding to a question from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who asked why the public had not been informed of the results sooner.

Gilmore emphasised that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has said the meat does not pose a public health risk and the matter is not about food safety.

He told the Dáil that people have a right to know what they are eating, particularly when they buy processed food, and said there should be “no differentiation” about exactly what is contained in meat whether people buy expensive cuts or less expensive processed meats.

Gilmore said that the Department of Agriculture and the FSAI are working together to identify exactly how the situation occurred.

A spokesperson for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said this morning that he believed the contamination of the beef burgers was more than likely accidental. Raymond Ellard said the investigation is ongoing but early indications show no evidence of subterfuge or bad practice.


  • Mid-November: The Food Safety Authority of Ireland took initial samples which were sent to a lab to be tested.
  • End of November: The FSAI takes further samples which were sent to a laboratory in another country.
  • 21 December: The Department of Agriculture helps the FSAI to take samples at some processing plants.
  • Friday 11 January: The results from the processing plants tests were received by the FSAI
  • Monday 14 January: Department of Agriculture is informed of the results of the tests. FSAI and the Department hold a lunchtime meeting where the FSAI gives details of the sampling results. The fallout from the find is discussed and evaluated. The Department begins a full-scale investigation. Minister Simon Coveney is told after the meeting, according to Eamon Gilmore.
  • Tuesday 15 January: Simon Coveney tells the Cabinet. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland releases a statement at 5pm giving details about the investigation.

Poll: Will the horse meat controversy stop you from buying beef burgers? >

Read: Horse and pig DNA found in supermarket beef burgers >

Read: Labour chairman Colm Keaveney wants party conference held in April >

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