Horsemeat: report sparks disappointment and an apology

A report into the horsemeat scandal by Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney has sparked disappointment from ABP and an apology from QK Meats.

In the report, published last week, Coveney said the two Irish companies had “let themselves down, as well as risking reputational damage to the Irish food sector itself”. He claimed he was “extremely concerned by the failure” of the ABP Food Group to “maintain proper oversight of Silvercrest”, the supplier responsible for the Tesco Everyday Value frozen burgers which contained horsemeat.

In a response, issued on Friday, ABP said it was “bitterly disappointed” by the report. “The business has been at the forefront of the successful development of Ireland’s agri-food exports over many years. It operates Europe-wide, servicing the most demanding of customers,” it said.

ABP claimed out that while controls at Silvercrest had “let the company down”, it had also been “a victim of the wide-scale European equine fraud”. It pointed out that it had acted in an “entirely appropriate fashion” since the contamination was discovered and was fully co-operating with authorities.

The report also led Irish horsemeat supplier for Birds Eye, QK Meats, to apologise for not informing Irish authorities about its discovery of equine DNA in products June last year. The company’s products imported from Poland tested positive for horse more than seven months ago. However, it failed to inform the authorities and kept importing from the same suppliers.

In a statement to the press, QK Meats said: “We have apologised to the department for this, deeply regret it and any breach of trust that it has caused, given our commitment to food quality and safety.

“Any product that tested positive was immediately isolated and either returned to the supplier or detained in quarantine at our premises. QK Meats can categorically state it did not introduce any product that tested positive into the food chain.”

QK Meats sourced products from 19 Polish suppliers, of which 15 consignments were tested from nine suppliers. Seven of these consignments tested positive for horsemeat.

The Irish company arranged to send back the contaminated products. However, despite its Polish imported products testing positive for horse DNA throughout October, November, December 2012 and January 2013, QK Meats continued to use the supplier.

He added that QK Meats “did not explain fully why it was testing for equine DNA since last June”, other than that there were “mumblings in the trade about suspect Polish raw material”.

Increase in testing

According to The Grocer magazine, food safety testers have seen a massive increase in testing, due to the contamination scandal.