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Latest tests show no horse DNA in Irish raw materials - Coveney

130 samples have been tested in the past week, but the Department won’t release results pending a double-test.

Image: Neil T via Flickr

Updated, 17:06

THE MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, Simon Coveney, has said the most recent rounds of tests on samples of burgers and ingredients used at the Silvercrest facility in Co Monaghan have shown no sign of horse DNA in Irish raw materials.

Samples from over 130 burgers and ingredients have been taken in the past week, which are being tested in laboratories in both Ireland and Germany before results will be released.

“As part of this process, some 24 preliminary results were received late last night from a laboratory in Germany and these have been sent to an Irish laboratory for confirmatory quantitative analysis,” Coveney said in a statement this afternoon.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said the investigation into the source of horse meat in beef burgers was ‘complex’ and included extensive examination of the records held by Silvercrest and in order to identify a comprehensive list of ingredients used in each batch of burgers tested.

Coveney said a wide range of ingredients can be used in the production of burgers, which could vary by batch – making it more difficult to draw immediate conclusions as to which individual ingredients may have led to the positive test for equine DNA.

“I am not prepared to draw any conclusion until I’m fully satisfied that such conclusions are supported by facts,” Coveney said, saying the emphasis was currently “on dealing with the matter thoroughly, promptly and as transparently as possible”.

This was in order to give consumers confidence in the integrity of food production in Ireland, he said, stressing that there was no food safety issue involved in the current investigations.

Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív said the statement did not bring “sufficient clarity or certainty to the situation”, and that Coveney had failed to reassure farmers, producers, retailer and consumers that he was “on top of this”.

“If there is some good reason for the Minister to be withholding information then he should come out and say so. All this vagueness has caused huge disquiet in the farming community and is putting the industry in jeopardy,” he said.

Efforts made to resume production

The Department’s statement added that every effort was being made to recommence production at Silvercrest, which suspended production last week after a second round of tests on burgers from that plant showed positive results for horse DNA in nine out of 13 burgers.

All ingredients sourced from Irish suppliers have tested negative for equine DNA, however.

Burger King, one of Silvercrest Foods’ major clients, has stopped using its products as a precaution and would find an alternative supplier for its burger meat.

It first emerged ten days ago that tests undertaken by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed the presence of equine DNA in ten out of 27 supermarket beef burgers.

In nine cases the equine DNA sample was quite low, but in the Tesco ‘everyday value’ beef burger – produced at Silvercrest – the level of equine DNA was 29 per cent.

Read: Production halted at plant as department confirms equine DNA found

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Gavan Reilly

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