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Irish authorities wrap up beef burger probe

Irish authorities have wound up their inquiry into the contamination of beef burgers with horse DNA, after testing which showed a raw ingredient from Poland was responsible.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, in what it described as its final update on the matter, said Polish authorities had been informed of its findings.

“The matter is now with them,” it said in a statement.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney announced late last week that a Polish ingredient had been identified as the source of the contamination in burgers from the Silvercrest plant, which resulted in the removal of millions of beef burgers from supermarket freezers across Ireland and Britain.

The results, he said, showed up to 20 per cent horse DNA content relative to beef.

This, he said, confirmed previous results that the raw material from Poland is the source of equine DNA content in certain beef burgers.

He noted that while earlier results had shown trace levels of equine DNA in imported raw materials, the latest results showed significant levels of equine DNA, averaging 4.1 per cent, in raw material used in the manufacture of burgers which the department found on January 25 to contain significant amounts of equine DNA.

The food safety watchdog said that full compliance with food law is required across the entire supply chain at all times.Food business operators must remain vigilant in ensuring the authenticity of ingredients used, it said.

The authority said it would continue its routine monitoring and surveillance programmes of food products to ensure they were complying with the requirements of food law and that they are safe.

All Irish ingredients that went into the production of the burgers tested clear for horse DNA.

The ABP Food Group, which owns the Silvercrest plant, along with a British plant also identified as producing burgers containing horse DNA, welcomed the results.

Group Chief Executive Paul Finnerty said: “This has been a very difficult experience for all involved and has led to a significant interruption in business for Silvercrest and its customers. We are relieved that the source of the problem has been identified.

“While the company has never knowingly purchased or traded in equine product, I wish to take this opportunity to apologise for the impact this issue has caused.”

The company was alerted to the issue by Irish authorities on the evening of January 14.

It said that whilst this was never a food safety issue it immediately recommended to its customers that they withdraw relevant products. When it became apparent that additional tests had indicated that other Silvercrest products might be affected with equine DNA contamination the company immediately suspended production at its Silvercrest plant.

Arising out of its internal investigations during the last two weeks the company has taken the following decisions:

  • To appoint a new management team at the Silvercrest facility.
  • ABP has undertaken a Group reorganisation. With immediate effect, responsibility for the Silvercrest business will transfer to ABP Ireland (the Irish chilled beef division). The sister business in the UK, Dalepak Foods, will come under the immediate control of ABP UK (the UK chilled beef business).
  • The Group will be independently auditing all its third-party suppliers.
  • ABP has already started to implement a new DNA testing regime over and above any legal requirements. This DNA testing (including equine) will be in addition to our current comprehensive testing regime which the company carries out for food safety requirements.

 

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