So according to the Elliot Report, food crime has been identified as a problem in Northern Ireland since 2005, but nothing was done about it because of a resource problem. Conor Macauley reports for the BBC:
UK customers had “access to perhaps the safest food in the world”, but said government should consider a new food crime unit to help prevent a repeat of the horsemeat scandal earlier this year.
The report did not state where in Northern Ireland the so-called “Category 3 meat” was found, but it was located after officials traced a suspicious container that had arrived in Northern Ireland from Asia.
That led to a follow-up operation at an unnamed cold store. The police were involved and the discovery of an industrial shrink-wrapping machine and forged veterinary documents raised concerns.
The report said it became evident “that the primary business of the cold store was repacking and re-labelling as fit for human consumption Cat 3 ABP meat”.
Category 3 ABP meat is defined by government as meat that has been passed fit for human consumption but which is not intended to be eaten. It may include hides, hair, feathers and bones.
The Elliott Report found that at the cold store there was evidence of “extensive criminal planning”.
“At that time (or currently) there was no capacity for the major criminal investigation that the evidence and the criminal profits justified,” the report said.
The meat was seized and condemned by a magistrates court but the report said the “many leads that were opened up into food crime networks at the time were not followed up”.
So given this was flagged up some seven years ago, who at Stormont knew and did not act?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty