Burger King in Britain says it found no evidence that beef patties contaminated with horse DNA found its way into its restaurants.
However, its inquiries confirmed the presence of horse DNA in several beef burgers destined for its restaurants from the Silvercrest plant in Ireland, one of three abattoirs implicated in the horse-meat scandal. The patties did not make it to the company’s restaurants, it said.
Tens of millions of burgers across Britain and Ireland were dumped by supermarkets following testing by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland which revealed traces of equine DNA in 10 of 27 beef burgers tested. One particular burger had 29 per cent of horse DNA relative to its beef content; and further testing of products revealed more contaminated burgers.
Just this week, The Co-operative Group in Britain discovered horse DNA contamination in burgers it stocked. Four of 17 samples tested positive, with one showing 17.7 per cent horse meat. The food retailer had withdrawn two lines of frozen burgers two weeks ago as a precaution.
At the centre of Burger King’s investigations was the Irish meat processor, Silvercrest Foods.
“Earlier this month, we were notified that Silvercrest was under investigation for potential contamination of some retail products,” Burger King said earlier this week.
“At that time, they were approved to supply 100 per cent Irish and British beef patties for Burger King restaurants in the UK, Ireland and Denmark.
“Despite assurances from them that our products were not implicated, we immediately launched our own internal investigation, which included scientific testing, inspection of the Silvercrest facility and scrutiny of traceability records.
“As we confirmed on January 23, we transitioned all of our restaurants in the UK, Ireland and Denmark to other Burger King approved suppliers from Germany and Italy as a precaution. These suppliers have provided DNA evidence to confirm their products are free of equine DNA. These are the product being sold in our restaurants today.”
The fast food chain said independent DNA tests were conducted on product taken from its restaurants. They were negative for any equine DNA. However, four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant had shown the presence of trace levels of equine DNA. This product was never sold to its restaurants, Burger King said.
“Within the last 36 hours, we have established that Silvercrest used a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland. They promised to deliver 100 per cent British and Irish beef patties and have not done so.
“This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them.
“Through our investigation, we have confirmed that this non-approved Polish supplier is the same company identified by the Irish Department of Agriculture as the source of Silvercrest’s contamination issue.
The vice president for global quality for Burger King Corporation, Diego Beamonte, said while the Food Safety Authority of Ireland had said it was not a food safety issue, the company was deeply troubled by the findings of its investigation.
“Our supplier has failed us … We are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again.
“We will dedicate ourselves to determining what lessons can be learned and what additional measures, including DNA testing and enhanced traceability controls, can be taken to ensure that we continue to provide you with the quality products you expect from us.”
Meanwhile, Polish authorities are conducting DNA tests on meat samples from seven facilities.
The action followed advice from Irish authorities that the evidence pointed to a Polish source for the horse DNA that found it way into the patties.
It is understood the horse DNA was contained in filler product, comprising offcuts, imported from Poland as an additive for the burgers.
The Poles are testing meat from five slaughterhouses, a meat processor and cold storage facility.