Bacon firm says sorry after DNA tests prove its rashers aren't Irish
A BACON maker has apologised unreservedly to customers after DNA tests showed some of its "Irish" rashers were actually made from imported meat.
The Irish Farmers Association revealed that tests on 300 bacon products from various supermarkets and meat companies had shown that half of them were sliced from imported pigmeat.
The IFA accused retailers and meat companies of misleading consumers by using labels that imply their products are Irish - even though bizarre labelling regulations mean they're not actually breaking the law by this.
Smoked Back Rashers made by J Crowe & Sons was the most glaring example, as the label on the packet stated it used Irish pork, gave the country of origin as Ireland and had the Love Irish Food logo – but genetic tests showed the meat was imported.
A spokesperson for J Crowe & Sons, which is part of Crowe Meats in Gurtussa, Dundrum in Co Tipperary, apologised last night.
"We apologise unreservedly to our customers for the error made.
"The product in question is outsourced and as soon as we were made aware of the issues from the IFA we set about rectifying the problem.
"We have now put in place procedures to ensure that this cannot happen again.
"As proud producers of Irish produce we fully support the IFA in highlighting issues such as this for consumers.
"We are fully committed to only using Irish products and fully support the Irish Pork industry."
Love Irish Food, which is a marketing body for Irish-made products, had said earlier that it was "extremely disappointed" with the findings.
It had very strict criteria for membership and would remove any brand that was not of Irish origin.
The IFA said DNA tests on 300 samples of pork and bacon products from supermarket shelves found that 52pc of the products were not Irish.
Many of these were in packets that used Irish names and pictures which suggested to the consumer they were buying Irish, and some said 'produced in Ireland' or 'country of origin Ireland'.
The IFA stressed that this was not technically illegal but highlighted ridiculous labelling regulations which allow imported meat be labelled as produced in Ireland if it is cured or processed here.
DNA tests carried out by genetic specialists Identigen proved the meat did not match the DNA profiles in a database of every boar in the Republic of Ireland, meaning it must have been imported.
IFA Pigs chairman Pat O'Flaherty said they wanted to help consumers make informed decisions when they were buying bacon and ham this Christmas.
"It is unacceptable that companies and retailers are using imported pigmeat in their products. In addition some companies and retailers are relying heavily on imagery and branding that would lead the consumer to believe they are buying Irish," he said.
A Glensallagh unsmoked back bacon joint sold at Lidl was another one of the products found to be from imported meat, even though the label stated "Produced in Ireland".
Lidl said that it had two distinct labels "Produce of Ireland" which was used for meat that contained 100pc Irish pigmeat and "Produced in Ireland" if it was processed and packed in Ireland using Irish and/or non-Irish ingredients.
It explained the distinction between these labels in its advertising material "to ensure customers are completely informed about the products they are buying".
The IFA said it was disappointing that even though Dunnes Stores promoted its Irish credentials strongly, tests on its St Bernard Mild Cure Back Rashers showed it was imported meat.
The St Bernard label states clearly that it is EU sourced pork, and also that it is produced in Ireland.
The IFA wants changes to labelling rules to ensure that the country where the animal is raised is shown on the packet.
It said that tests on bacon with the Bord Bia quality assured label had shown this meat was actually of Irish origin so consumers could trust it.