Food industry will be damaged – Coveney
Published 16/01/2013 | 05:00
AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney has briefed his cabinet colleagues on the horse meat in beef burgers affair.
But it wasn't until teatime that the public was informed about the issue by a state agency, which Mr Coveney admitted was damaging to the Irish food industry.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland formally announced the discovery of horse DNA in some beef burger products.
About five hours earlier, Mr Coveney informed fellow ministers at the cabinet meeting and Health Minister James Reilly also gave his view on the matter.
Mr Coveney did eventually pop up on RTE's 'Six One News', where he was due to appear to speak about the Irish Farmers' Association's criticism of him on other issues.
Aiming to reassure the public, Mr Coveney said there was no food-safety risk in the consumption of the burgers.
He said vets from the Department of Agriculture had gone into the two plants concerned to try to trace the source of the horsemeat.
A set of new samples were being taken for examination.
He said the issue of main concern was how one burger product had 29pc horsemeat content.
"Certainly people want to know where their food comes from," he said.
Mr Coveney said the Government would establish the facts about how it happened and it was believed to have come from two continental third-party suppliers of products.
Mr Coveney said Ireland had probably "the best traceability and food safety system in the world".
But he acknowledged the affair was damaging to the reputation of the food industry in this country.
"In the food industry, reputation is everything and we have, you know, fantastic food companies in this country that have built an industry out of this island and we do export to about 165 different countries across the world," he said.
"And so stories like this are not helpful and that is why my department is determined to get to the bottom of it quickly so that we can give a full explanation in a very transparent manner as to how this happened, where the horsemeat element of that burger came from and why it happened, to ensure it doesn't happen again," he added.