The Government and meat companies were striving to rebuild confidence in Irish beef this week as the 'horsemeat in burgers' controversy appeared to be coming to an end.
The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, held lengthy discussions with officials from both Tesco and Burger King over the weekend, following revelations that the source of the horsemeat in burgers from the Silvercrest plant in Ballybay, Co Monaghan was a Polish company.
A Burger King source indicated that officials from the company would visit Ireland within a fortnight to hold discussions with Department staff and the minister regarding new quality control procedures that are to be introduced in ABP-owned Silvercrest.
Under an agreement with the Department, ABP has agreed to replace the management at the Co Monaghan facility and to purchase all ingredients for burgers from Irish or British sources. Inspectors from the Department will also have a permanent presence in Silvercrest for at least six months and DNA testing will be undertaken on materials from the plant. A Department official said the final details of the inspection regime, such as whether raw ingredients or finished burgers should be tested, would be finalised in discussions with ABP.
A spokesman for ABP said no decision has been made on the timing of a possible re-opening of the plant.
However, he insisted that there were no plans for redundancies and that "normal conditions of employment" remained in place and staff continued to be paid. ABP refused to comment when asked if management at the parent company was aware that Silvercrest was importing meat from Poland.
The results of tests carried out last week and announced by the Department showed that the source of the horsemeat was frozen blocks of processed trimmings from a Polish supplier. Tests showed that the meat from horses accounted for 20pc of some of the samples tested.
Minister Coveney said the findings had vindicated the reputation of the Irish food industry. "The fact that this problem was effectively imported from another member state is in some ways a vindication of the Irish food industry," he said.
The minister added that the investigation's findings would have to be considered at European level since the factory from which the contaminated meat had been sourced was an EU-approved plant.
Minister Coveney refuted suggestions that he had "jumped the gun" in singling out Spain and Holland as possible sources of the horsemeat contamination.
He said material from both Dutch and Spanish suppliers to the ABP plant had shown trace elements of equine DNA in preliminary tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland .
Meanwhile, prices for almost all classes of stock have held well this week. Steers and bulls are still making 410-420c/kg, while heifers are making at least 10c/kg more. O-grade cows are being quoted up to 360c/kg.
However, analysts have noted that for every week the Silvercrest plant stays shut, the meat plants are forced to find alternative outlets for up to 500t of beef that was previously going into burgers.