THE world's largest food and drink company has introduced new tests to identify DNA from kangaroos, dogs and goats in food in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association conference in Waterford yesterday, Dr John O'Brien, Nestle's head of food safety and quality, said the company had embraced molecular testing since equine DNA was first discovered in beef last January.
"Since then, we are monitoring food for kangaroo, dogs, goats and other species and asking the question: could any of these enter the food chain?" he told the 350 conference delegates.
Dr O'Brien, who is a former chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, now heads up Food Safety and Quality at the Nestle Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He said the growing complexity of the global food chain meant that potential food contaminants were a big challenge for all food and drink companies.
Referring to the horsemeat scandal, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he believed that the reputation of Irish beef had been enhanced rather than damaged by the episode.
"We were the first country to discover a problem that was subsequently found to affect, and in some cases to an even greater extent in terms of the number of companies affected, 26 out of 28 member states," Mr Coveney told the conference.
Paul Finnerty, chief executive of meat processor ABP, which was embroiled in the controversy, said the company had made changes to reduce the risk of ever being affected by a similar problem again.
ABP has begun High Court proceedings against a Polish company for breach of contract relating to a supply of beef that contained equine DNA to Silvercrest Foods. It also reached a financial settlement with another firm for supplying beef contaminated with equine DNA.
Mr Finnerty said the company did not lose any customers in its chilled beef business and ABP continued to "stand tall in product we sell to our customers".
"We are still in the frozen burger business in the UK and we continue to serve five of the top retailers there," he told the conference.