THE meat industry has been rocked by revelations that Irish horse meat was exported labelled as beef.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said gardai were now working closely with his department following the revelation that the B&F Meats plant in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, was sending horse meat to the Czech Republic labelled as beef .
Officers of the department's Special Investigations Unit entered the plant yesterday afternoon and all operations there have been suspended .
The raid comes almost three years after one of the company's directors, Ted Farrell, came before an Oireachtas Committee calling for a relaxing of the rules for slaughtering horses for human consumption .
He said that rejecting horses on the basis of medical treatment they received years before “does not make sense” .
Last night, Mr Coveney responded to the discovery of the mislabelled meat saying: “I am seriously concerned about this development and the gardai have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my department.” The revelation that horse meat wrongly labelled as beef was being exported from Ireland was described by farmers as “economic sabotage” .
The Department of Agriculture made the bombshell announcement that it had suspended all operations at B&F Meats in Carrick-on-Suir, a small-scale plant approved to debone beef and horse meat .
The department said the company “was despatching some horse meat to a single customer in the Czech Republic via a UK-based trader using a label in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef ” .
Continued from Page 1 Although a number of Irish food companies have been found to be using horse meat in their products, this is the first time that the finger has been pointed at an Irish company as the potential source of mislabelled horse meat in Europe. Mr Coveney said: “The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.” B&F Meats, run by directors Ted Farrell and John Barron, is headquartered in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny .
The company did not respond to requests for comment. B&F took over the Hunt plant in Carrick-on-Suir after it went in to liquidation .
Carcasses It is one of three companies in Ireland licensed to slaughter horses, although the plant being investigated cuts up horse carcasses rather than slaughtering them .
Mr Farrell told the Irish Independent last year that his company slaughtered 150 horses a week for export to Europe .
He appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in March 2010 for a discussion on “Slaughter of Horses” .
He complained that an EU provision meant that horses not registered with a passport before the age of six months were deemed not fit for human consumption. He said: “There is no medical reason for this and no logical reason I can see.” Mr Farrell added that Ireland should apply to have the registration period extended to 12 months. He said this measure would “make another 50pc of horses eligible for slaughter” .
The most recent accounts filed by B&F Meats show that it made an operating profit of more than €95,000 in 2011. That's a drop of more than 200pc on its €376,477 operating profit from the previous year .
Its accounts show that it employed 29 people in 2011 .
B&F Meats has been in business for 80 years and also supplies beef, lamb and venison to the food industry .
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association called for the full weight of sanctions and penalties to be used against any party that had deliberately engaged in fraudulent mislabelling or wrongdoing of any kind. Given the importance of Irish beef and food exports, fraud of this nature “constituted an act of economic sabotage”, said ICMSA president John Comer .