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Press Briefing Update on Investigation, February 15th

Following the meeting with 8 EU Ministers and Commissioner Borg in Brussels on Wednesday night, the EU Standing Committee on Food and Animal Health (SCOFAH) met today to agree the detail of a pan European testing programme. Testing under this programme commences next week and Ireland will submit all related results from the initial month of testing to the Commission by April 15th.

In addition to the EU wide initiative Minister Coveney said “The FSAI and my Department met with the meat processing sector yesterday to agree a national protocol for DNA testing of meat to be applied at retail, catering and processing level in Ireland. We intend to introduce DNA testing from now on as part of routine food testing across the country. The industry has already been engaged in product testing of over 200 samples and results received by the FSAI to date have all been negative for equine DNA; a further 5 tested positive but were all in respect of products previously identified as a problem and these products have already been removed from the market”.

In addition to the testing for Phenylbutazone agreed to at an EU wide level by SCOFAH today, the Minister stated that his Department and the FSAI are formulating a more comprehensive testing regime for horsemeat to provide full reassurance that no illegal slaughtering of horsemeat is taking place.

In line with the agreement to work in coordination with Europol agreed by Ministers on Wednesday night, the Minister confirmed that his Department’s Special Investigations Unit is liaising with Europol through the Garda Síochána. This involves the provision of all information linked to the investigation to date focusing on the supply chains to Silvercrest and Rangeland.

The ongoing investigation, this week has focused on QK Cold Stores Naas, who have disclosed that consignments of frozen beef trimmings imported from Poland were tested by them and some showed positive for equine DNA. These consignments were either returned to the Polish companies concerned or are under detention by the Department at the cold store. The company concerned has confirmed to the Department that none of the consignments that tested positive for equine DNA were released onto the market.

Finally, the Minister said “We have made significant steps forward this week in our investigations nationally but also in securing a significant response at European level to this ongoing controversy.  We now have a comprehensive EU monitoring programme in place introduced by the Commission at the behest of the Irish Presidency. Our investigation continues and information is being shared bilaterally with other competent authorities and with Europol. The industry, which has primary responsibility for food placed on the market, has agreed to introduce additional DNA testing in order to provide reassurance to consumers. Ireland continues to be to the forefront of both highlighting and solving this fraudulent mislabelling of meat and we will continue to do so”.

Date Released: 18 February 2013