Simon Coveney breaks the news of horse meat found in Newry plant…

Last night, Simon Coveney was on Prime Time (4 minutes in) with Miriam O’Callaghan. Coveney is Agriculture Minister for the Republic but he is also chair of all the agriculture ministers across Europe just now by dint of Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union.

He’s clearly in a very hot seat just now, and accordingly gave an account of an investigation that has narrowed the problem down to just two producers.

Indeed, it was Coveney (and not the northern Agriculture Minister) who announced that there was a problem now in the Freeza Plant in Newry. In Northern Ireland, most of the public comment has been led so far by Paul Frew, the chair of the assembly’s agriculture committee. The last word from Michelle O’Neill was that “there is no reason to believe there are any issues with processors in Northern Ireland”.

{Text removed} See this note posted by jthree:

Freeza Meats is not part of the ABP Food Group
In response to queries, the ABP Food Group wishes to make clear that Freeza Meats, the company named in yesterday’s Food Standards Agency statement, is not part of ABP Newry or any part of the ABP Food Group.

As the BBC note, in the Republic the possibility of fraud is being investigated:

Meanwhile, police in the Irish Republic have been asked to investigate after horsemeat was found in beef products at a third factory. Ministers requested police assistance after equine DNA was found at Rangeland Foods, in County Monaghan.

The firm stopped production after tests found 75% horse DNA in an ingredient imported from Poland. The company said the consignment had not gone into production. Mr McCurdy, of the FSA in Northern Ireland, said the possibility of fraud needed to be investigated.

“That is why the Republic of Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the minister, the Garda are involved. We will be working very closely with those authorities to try and establish the facts of this case and to determine whether or not this is accidental, in terms of someone has packaged and mislabelled, or whether or not there is deliberate fraudulent activity.”

He added: “At this point in time we have no indication of food safety risk, but this is an issue about food safety confidence.”

In Northern Ireland, the Minister has yet to make any kind of statement, either publicly to the press or to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development Committee at Stormont. That committee is due to meet this morning.

The question should be asked, why did the southern Minister take it upon himself to announce this issue, when it properly falls to Michelle O’Neill?

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