Horsemeat: FSAI chief quizzed by MPs on horsemeat discovery

Whether it started as the result of a tip-off or not, the horsemeat scandal is still receiving massive amounts of attention from UK government.

In an intense session, with MPs sitting on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee, Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) chief executive Alan Reilly was questioned closely on whether the organisation was acting on outside intelligence when it started testing for horsemeat. During the session, Reilly was asked more than once whether or not the FSAI had tested beef products for horsemeat as a matter of routine.

In response to Reilly’s claim there was no tip-off, committee chair Anne McIntosh asked him not to play the “innocent”, according to a report in MeatInfo.co.uk’s sister title The Grocer.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Barry Gardiner made reference to the 29.1% horsemeat burger found at ABP’s Silvercrest plant, with The Grocer reporting him as saying: “You are really asking this committee to believe you were just conducting a random test for horse at that level of DNA specificity, and – goodness me – you found it? The luck of the Irish, Mr Reilly!”

However, Reilly retorted that he had thought of that particular burger as like winning the “Lotto” and re-affirmed the FSAI had not acted on any intelligence before it started testing for horsemeat. Instead, he said, the FSAI had acted out of “common sense”, asking themselves what were likely sources of adulteration and what meat would be in an adulterated product.

Reilly was then accused of using a testing process that would “lift the lid” on the horsemeat issue, but would not see the Irish meat industry damaged beyond repair. Gardiner said: “You wanted them to clean up their act, but you didn’t want them to destroy the Irish industry in the process.”

Reilly reportedly described this accusation as “fantastic theory”.