SUPERMARKET giant Tesco has dealt a huge blow to the Irish meat industry after it revealed this morning it had dropped Monaghan supplier Silvercrest over the horsemeat scandal.
Meat in Tesco burgers which was found to contain horse DNA did not come from a list of approved suppliers, the supermarket said today in a strongly worded statement.
The meat also came from outside the UK or Ireland, which was contrary to company policy.
The supermarket said it had dropped Silvercrest, owned by Larry Goodman’s ABP, following what it termed a "breach of trust".
Tesco Ireland chief Tony Keohane said: "The change in our buying relates only to frozen burgers from the Silvercrest plant which is valued at circa €15 million a year. We continue to purchase fresh Irish beef worth more than €100 million a year from other ABP companies.
"Tesco plans to open discussions with other Irish beef processors in relation to the sourcing of frozen burgers in the near future."
The company has vowed to introduce a DNA testing system on meat products to "ensure the quality" of the food on its shelves in the wake of the scandal.
It said: "We now understand - with as much certainty as possible - what happened.
"The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them.
"Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beefburgers.
"Consequently we have decided not to take products from that supplier in future. We took that decision with regret but the breach of trust is simply too great."
Tesco was forced to issue a public apology earlier this month after tests in Ireland discovered traces of horse meat in three frozen beefburger lines.
The findings sparked a outcry and 10 million burgers were taken off shelves.
The supermarket launched an investigation into how the meat ended up in stores in the UK and Ireland on January 16.
Today it promised to set a "new standard" with the introduction of a testing system designed to detect "any deviation from our high standards".
It issued a statement saying: "We made a commitment to customers to investigate thoroughly and share the findings with them. Since then, we have been working hard to understand what happened and how we can stop it ever happening again."
It added: "Ultimately Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier.
"We have a well-equipped, expert technical team and world-class checks in place but we will not take anything for granted after this incident.
"It has shown that, in spite of our stringent tests, checks and controls there remained a small possibility that something could go wrong and it did. We want to stop it ever happening again, so we are taking action to reduce that possibility still further.
"To underpin the strong measures already in place, we will now introduce a comprehensive system of DNA testing across our meat products. This will identify any deviation from our high standards.
"These checks will set a new standard.
"It will be a significant investment for Tesco, borne by Tesco. We want to leave customers in no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their food and that the food they buy is exactly what the label says it is."
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said on Saturday that beef containing horse DNA supplied by Silvercrest to retailers had originated in Poland.
In response to that statement, ABP said it had never knowingly sold equine products.
The controversy began on January 15 when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said it had found horse DNA in beef burger products sold by Tesco in the UK and Ireland.
It said most of the affected burgers contained very low levels of horse DNA, but in one Tesco sample horse meat accounted for about 29pc relative to the beef content.
Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said: "Farmers are angry over the breach in standards outside the farm gate and the failure to ensure that the specifications set down by a customer was not complied with in full at the Silvercrest plant."
"Serious lessons from the equine DNA episode must be learned, and measures put in place to ensure that something like this never happens again," he said.