“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger…”

So, what did you have for dinner…  The BBC reports the headline findings of the snapshot survey by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland of some beef-based products on sale in Ireland.  From the BBC report

Horse DNA has been found in some beef burgers being sold in UK and Irish supermarkets, the Republic of Ireland’s food safety authority (FSAI) has said.

The FSAI said the meat came from two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Yorkshire.

It said they posed no health risk.

The burgers were on sale in Tesco and Iceland in the UK and Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland they were on sale in Dunnes Stores, Lidl, and Aldi.

Retailers have said they are now removing all implicated batches of the burgers.

From the FSAI press release

A total of 27 beef burger products were analysed with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA.  In addition, 31 beef meal products (cottage pie, beef curry pie, lasagne, etc) were analysed of which 21 were positive for pig DNA and all were negative for horse DNA.  All 19 salami products analysed tested negative for horse DNA.  Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain.

The beef burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by two processing plants (Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods) in Ireland and one plant (Dalepak Hambleton) in the UK.  They were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.  In nine of the ten beef burger samples from these retailers, horse DNA was found at very low levels.  However, in one sample from Tesco, the level of horse DNA indicated that horsemeat accounted for approximately 29% relative to the beef content. The FSAI is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the processing plants and retailers involved.  The retailers have stated that they are removing all implicated batches from sale today.  In addition, Silvercrest Foods has informed the FSAI that it is withdrawing all products from sale and replacing them with new products. [added emphasis]

According to Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, whilst these findings pose no risk to public health they do raise some concerns.  He states: “The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried.  Consumers who have purchased any of the implicated products can return them to their retailer.”

“Whilst, there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horsemeat in their production process.  In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.  Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.  We are working with the meat processing plants and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products,” concludes Prof. Reilly. [added emphasis]

The results of the ‘beef’ burger products analysed are available here [pdf file].

The Irish Times report includes the response by the Irish Government’s Minister for Food, Simon Coveney

Minister for Food Simon Coveney has said a full investigation into the matter by his department is under way, following from “confirmation of the results of a FSAI snapshot survey to examine the authenticity of the ingredients declared in the labelling of some beef-based products retailing in Ireland”.

His statement noted the FSAI “has made clear that there is no food safety implication” to the finding, although it does raise concerns about the proper labelling and sourcing of food ingredients.

“The Minister confirmed that on receipt of this information from the FSAI, his department immediately commenced an investigation in the particular plant where the higher [unexpected DNA] findings were detected to determine the source of the equine products,” the statement said.

“That investigation is ongoing but is focusing on the individual ingredients used in the manufacture of the affected batch. A number of these individual ingredients were imported into the State. The Minister stated that to date there was no evidence from the investigation being conducted to show that the manufacturer knowingly brought in equine meat for use in the production of these burgers.”

  • Tomas Gorman

    Horsemeats quite tasty. Enjoyed some Switzerland about ten years ago.

  • Bishops Finger

    Can we expect a jihad against Tesco?

  • GEF

    It is a much darker meat like Venison. Eaten in France, Italy & other European countries. But it is more expensive than beef. So this must have been a cock up or was made for the European market and slipped through to the UK. But it will do no harm to those who have eaten it unless it is contaminated.

  • iluvni

    Lets hope the Northern Ireland agriculture minister is quickly on the ball to ensure our local farmers arent affected as word spreads around the globe.

  • What did I have for dinner?
    MInce steak.
    Wont do me any harm but I start second favourite in the 2.30pm at Newmarket tomorrow.
    On a more serious level this will have to be sorted out pretty quickly. This is too important an industry to have a cloud over it.

  • SK

    “Lets hope the Northern Ireland agriculture minister is quickly on the ball to ensure our local farmers arent affected as word spreads around the globe.”

    Whoa there horsey.

    Might wanna ask those loyal Ulster farmers first. They’re usually desperate to ensure that their meat is labelled as Irish rather than British.

  • forthman

    Its the EU’s fault. We were told years ago that product provenance was central to a new, fairer EU. What we got was chicken(raw material) reared in Hungary, shipped to Ireland, turned into Chicken ‘products’, and with a tri-colour, stamped ‘produced in Ireland’.
    Why can’t the labeling of these food stuffs state 100% Irish/British??

  • babyface finlayson

    A tasty lentil burger for me.Yum yum.
    When will you sad people stop filling your intestines with bits of dead animals.

  • abucs

    This article will make me think twice before ordering a burger and chips.

  • The Raven

    There are plenty of home producers dotted around the countryside who will sell you food which is not factory processed, and which is quality assured, and not packed in argon gas for a very reasonable price. I realise that that will elicit a “how does someone on benefits manage?” response, but it can be done with planning, a little effort from yourself, and some forethought.

    That anyone still buys meat from Tesco amazes me. 176 separate DNAs in one meatball? 70% connective tissue? What were you expecting?

    Horse is the least of your problems.

  • Harry Flashman

    Once we get past all the horse jokes and “what’s all the fuss about it’s just another meat?” comments we need to realize just how appalling this actually is.

    One of the few, very, very, few, successful native industries Ireland could boast of was its meat industry, specifically beef. Following the Irish economic collapse it was about the only economic success story Ireland could point to. This will absolutely devastate it.

    People in the UK don’t like eating horsemeat, it’s a taboo for them, there’s no point in talking about hypocrisy regarding eating one type of meat or another, if your customers are disgusted at the thought of eating something then don’t sell it to them on the sly. The UK is a huge market for Irish beef, they can kiss a sizable chunk of that goodbye now.

    Even worse is the idea that pork was being included, even if only incidentally in the manufacturing process. Islamic countries are another massive market for Irish beef, once word gets out that there’s pork in Irish beef products then that wipes that market out. This will have colossal ramifications for a huge Irish business, it’s actually quite shocking how much damage it could do.

    So who’s to blame? Well first and foremost our old friends the gombeen men who run Irish beef. What is it with those gobshites? They have a huge, successful business and they just can’t help themselves from wrecking it with their greed and shitehawkery. It is incredible that such idiots exist but no surprise when one considers what they got away with in the 1990s, the fact that no one from Irish beef has ever spent a night in a prison cell for the decades of financial and other chicanery tells you all you need to know about the cesspit of Irish politics and business.

    But next on the list, despite the admirable courage of the food regulators in this case, is the people who are supposed to be watching out for this sort of stuff. Ask anyone who has tried to run a family butchery business about the non-stop petty interference from food inspectors and they will tell you how they are persecuted to the point of shutting up shop by their officiousness and yet the local family run butcher who sources his meat from the local independent abbatoir (another breed on the point of extinction) is your safest and most reliable supplier of meat products.

    The food inspectors hate the small butcher, he causes too much trouble. They have to go around and individually check up on him and no, he often doesn’t have computer records dating back six months of the exact temperatures of every delivery to his business. Nor does he have a plethora of different fridges, cool rooms, processing areas, food hygiene certificates and all the other nonsense that the big boys can run off in a minute to the satisfaction of the inspector who simply has to visit head office.

    Surprisingly however the local butcher who does all his work in a back area usually visible to his customers, who he knows by name, doesn’t try to slip horse meat into his minced beef.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I’m surprised those burgers have 29% meat content of any description.

  • BarneyT

    Interesting one this. For some eating horse meat would be akin to eating dog meat. In Ireland and I mean the isle, horses generally have a special place and are not for the table.

    The issue here is contamination. There should be no need to look outside of the island for meat products or any agent necessary to help bind burgers.

    I second many of those that suggest the protection of the industry is foremost.

  • Mickles

    This might have a positive effect and provide a lot more business to local butchers now. I know I’ll be more reluctant to purchase meat from Tescos now.

  • If horse-meat were the worst contaminant in burgers, that would be the least of our problems.

    A passing brush with food regulations might put anyone off. Ammonia and pink slime, anyone? And, before you plunge too deeply into detailed US FDA specifications, including the wikipedia summary, have a strong stomach.

    If that seems bad, there is a text out there, Safety In The Agri-Food Chain by Pieternel A. Luning, Frank Devlieghere, Roland Verhé [2006]. Therein section 4.3.3 Control Measures cheerfully begins: In Europe, no particular legislation or limits exist for non-radioactive physical contamination.

  • BarneyT

    I was just checking my burgers in the fridge there……Aaaannnnd they’re off!!!

  • Kaido

    During the good old days of intervention when anything pertaining to meat, and a damn lot that wasn’t, was stuffed in a container and shipped to a cold store in Europe, the art of chicanery was raised to it’s peak and it created more millionaires than the recent heyday of the celtic tiger.
    In the aftermath of all this there were quite a few got their collars felt and spent some time at the various governments pleasure.

    But then again nothing changes when there is lots of money to be made. Neigh problem.

  • Sooner or later someone here is going to propose the need for new regulation, and drag in Bismarck (or Churchill: he’s the usual snapper-upper of unattributed quotations). So I’ll get in first, with this from Fred Shapiro, On Language, in the New York Times, 21 July 2008:

    When a candidate refers to Otto von Bismarck’s famous maxim about “laws and sausages,” grin knowingly, point out that the Iron Chancellor was not associated with that quip until the 1930s and cite The Daily Cleveland Herald, Mar. 29, 1869, quoting the lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe that “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made”.

    I notice that the FSAI tests, which gave rise to this boo-ha, date back two months. That might raise other questions — not least about the length of the supply chain to NI and (longer still?) to GB supermarket shelves.

    As I was citing previously:

    I know two things about a horse
    And one of them is rather coarse.

  • BarneyT

    I took a look at the burgers in our supermarket and noticed someone has gone over the top with the bar-coding…until I realised they were laced with Zebra meat 🙂

  • Maybe horsemeat will become part of our stable diet.

  • carl marks

    in my travels round the world I have eaten burgers made of many things, worms in south America and rat in Sumatra, dog stew was a favourite in Flores my point being as long as I know what I’m eating I don’t mind, but if I buy beef burgers I expect beef.
    But I have to admit I didn’t think Tesco’s burgers had that much meat in them from whatever source.

  • wild turkey

    So who’s to blame? Well first and foremost our old friends the gombeen men who run Irish beef. What is it with those gobshites? They have a huge, successful business and they just can’t help themselves from wrecking it with their greed and shitehawkery. It is incredible that such idiots exist but no surprise when one considers what they got away with in the 1990s, the fact that no one from Irish beef has ever spent a night in a prison cell for the decades of financial and other chicanery tells you all you need to know about the cesspit of Irish politics and business.

    nail on head flashman. yeah, i’m sure the lucrative muslim market for irish will just love to read;

    low in fat. high in shergar. high in porky pig

  • iluvni

    …and as GEU asks, when was the Agriculture Minister of Northern Ireland informed by her counterpart in the Republic?

  • George

    Another question which has not yet been answered is would this issue have ever been discovered in the UK if it wasn’t for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland carrying out DNA testing on meat for sale to the consumer.

    It will be interesting to see what happens now that a light has been shed on this area and what the now UK’s Food Standards Agency uncovers in its jurisdiction. Why did they not discover it? Do they not carry out such tests too?

    Also, as already mentioned above, this meat that was shipped by a third party supplier met all the necessary EU standards. Is DNA testing carried out in other EU countries?

  • Alias

    Harry’s post is spot-on. Given that one supplier had over 30% horse meat in their burgers; this isn’t a problem of accidental contamination. The idea that these people thought they could get away with this indefinitely is quite shocking as it calls into question food safety in Ireland right across the board.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agreed Alias. This is dodgy as hell and they’re trying to spin their way out of it.

    We now know that at least 30% of what’s going into a randomly-tested burger was untraced by the supplier. This is extremely serious.

  • OK, let’s treat this with due respect … and due respect to Mr Baker who was there before us.

    I’ve checked out: FSAI. OK: should have done due diligence at the beginning … and you’re all ahead of me.

    However, let me be pedestrian, and repetitive.

    What show up are ten samples which include horse DNA, all but one with very small quantities. By contrast, all but six of the twenty-six samples showed unspecified amounts of pork. Only one sample showed the large amount of horse: 29.1% in Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers, batch code 1 15:35 12290.

    All the horse-DNA samples originated from three plants, identified by their EU plant numbers IE 565 EC (five samples, including the one made of a third Dobbin), IE 325 EC (three samples) and UK HN012 EC (two samples).

    I was about to try and decode those through a search, but found The Anglo-Celt way ahead of me:

    … the products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by two Irish plants, Liffey Meats in Cavan and the ABP/ Larry Goodman-owned Silvercrest Foods, which has processing plants in Monaghan.

    The UK plant appears to be Anglo Beef Processors, trading as Dalepak Foods, of Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire. We might usefully ask why UK inspectors, and Hambledon District (the licensing authority) didn’t pick up this one. Of course, the ConDem government believes in “light-touch” regulation, and has cut back finance for that kind of nonsense.

    Liffey Meats excuse themselves:

    The FSAI tests found minute traces of non-beef DNA in the Company’s beef burgers. The Company believes it has identified the source of the contamination. Liffey Meats is purely a beef processor and has absolute traceability on all of the beef used. The source of the contamination is imported ingredients and these will be replaced from other sources before production is resumed and customers are supplied.

    “As confirmed by the FSAI the products concerned represent no risk to human health. In two of the three samples the levels as reported by the FSAI are so low as to be at the Limit of Quantification (LOQ) and for the other sample the level detected is reported as being less than 0.1%.”

    That leaves:

    “A spokesperson for Silvercrest Foods, a subsidiary of ABP Foods, said:

    “This issue affects a number of burger manufacturing companies in Ireland (see attached FSAI table), including Silvercrest Foods.

    “Following tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, we have been alerted to frozen beef burgers which contain porcine and equine DNA.

    “Although the products pose no risk to public health, Silvercrest has taken immediate action to isolate, withdraw and replace all suspect product. Silvercrest has never purchased or traded in equine product and has launched a full-scale investigation into two continental European third party suppliers who are the suspected source of the product in question.”

    Now, all of that is in the public province — and you’ve probably seen all of this while I was enjoying a second botte of Beaujolais. However, I’d put up just one further concern.

    It’s that EU plant number IE 565 EC, which might — just might — lead us back to … wherever (but Silvercrest leaps to mind, for obvious reasons). Why does that number not appear,as far as I can see, on the list of “Quality Assurance” providers of Bord Bía?

    Forgive me for taking up your time and bandwidth.

  • I think the pork found is the biggest problem due to the prohibition on consuming it in the Moslem and Jewish faiths. Could be disastrous for export markets.

  • Alias

    If there is “no risk to health” then it is by pure luck since the companies have clearly stated that they don’t have any effective controls over which ingredients goes into their food products. Why not throw in a gallon of rat poison for good measure? They should have 100% control. I’m sure they do, but in this case they simply won’t admit that they were dumping horse heat in as cheap filler so they’re simply claiming that they haven’t a clue how it got there. Where did these horses come from anyway? Are they sent to a slaughter house to be killed on the hoof like cattle or are they picked up from pounds and travellers and such as dead carcases?

  • The Raven

    Harry, I thought your observations were spot on.

    I’d recommend everyone has a read at The Omnivore’s Dilemma

    It’s not completely locally relevant, and has a US perspective on industrial farming, versus small holding, but I guarantee there are some foods you’ll never eat again after reading it.

    Certainly after having had explained to me the mix of water and antibiotics which make up that white foam you see when cooking bacon, I’ll never eat the muck that comes from most supermarkets under the guise of bacon. Compare a rasher of Tamworth or Saddleback, reared and killed on a small scale, to that of the Landrace or Large White farmed on an industrial scale and you’ll realise how bad it has become.

    And they didn’t even need to add the horse.

  • Fritzwhiskey

    You have to see the funny side in this video.


  • tacapall