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Coveney Announces New Control Measures in the Wake of Equine DNA Investigation

- B&F Meats (Carrick-On-Suir) - Operations Suspended-

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney today provided a further update on the ongoing investigation into the mislabelling of meat products and announced new measures to step up the detection of food fraud. 

Investigation continues 

The investigation led by the Department’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) continues in conjunction with the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. This involves forensic examination of electronic data and records associated with consignments of beef products. It also involves detailed inspections of certain food business operators including traders, transporters, processers and exporters. The SIU is also liaising with counterparts in other Member States and Europol in relation to this pan European investigation.  

Suspension of all operations at B&F Meats (Carrick on Suir). 

In this context it has been discovered that B&F Meats, a small scale plant approved to debone beef and horsemeat, was despatching some horsemeat to a single customer in the Czech Republic via a UK based trader using a label in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef. The Department has suspended all operations at the plant with immediate effect. Officers of the SIU have, this afternoon entered the plant to carry out a full investigation. The Minister said “I am seriously concerned about this development and the Gardai have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my Department. The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation”

EU DNA Testing Programme  

As part of the EU-wide coordinated control plan, 50 additional food samples will be checked for horse DNA during March in Ireland. These include products marketed or labelled as containing beef as a major ingredient such as minced meat, meat products and meat preparations. The Minister said that “he has agreed this EU-wide programme to investigate food fraud in order to restore consumer confidence and to establish the extent of the problem across the EU. The Commission will grant financial support to Member States to carry out the plan at a rate of 75% of the costs. The controls are to run for one month initially and may be extended for a further two months”. The results of these tests will be published. 

National DNA Testing Protocol agreed 

In addition to the EU programme, officials from the Department together with the FSAI have met with representatives from the meat processing, retailing and catering sectors and agreed a protocol for DNA testing of beef products to check for adulteration with horse meat. The following categories of food are being tested – pre-packaged beef products on sale to the final consumer or to mass caterers, beef products offered for sale without pre-packaging to consumers or to mass caterers and meat ingredients used in processed beef products.   The results will be made known to the public. 

More Extensive Testing for Phenylbutazone (Bute)

In addition to the EU-wide control programme for residues of Bute, the Department is introducing a positive release programme for horses destined for the food chain. The Minister said “Only horse meat testing negative for residues of phenylbutazone (“Bute”) will be allowed on the market.” This programme will run for an initial period of one month and the results, once published, will be assessed to inform future policy.

 Establishment of Central Data Base for Equine Identification

The Minister has already set in motion the establishment of a centralised equine database. For the purposes of establishing this database, the Department has requested the Passport Issuing Organisations to provide details of equine animals registered and passports issued by them since 1 January 1980 to date and the exit status of the animals. The intention is that this database will be used at abattoirs to verify the authenticity of the passport for the equine presented and to record its date of slaughter.

 Enhanced Labelling Inspection Programme

The FSAI is coordinating an enhanced inspection programme with the HSE and local authorities of cold stores and wholesalers to authenticate providence and accuracy of labelling of beef raw ingredients used in the manufacture of processed meat products.   

Special Debate on Controversy at EU Council

The Minister said that this problem, first uncovered in Ireland, has spread across the EU and for this reason he had already convened a meeting of other Ministers and the Commission last week in Brussels which led to the establishment of an EU wide testing programme. Acting in his role as Chairman of the Council, he has arranged to hold a special debate on this matter under the Irish Presidency at next Monday’s Council of Agriculture and Fisheries meeting.   

Date Released: 22 February 2013