AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney's officials have insisted that there was no need to tell him straight away about the discovery of horse meat in frozen beef burgers.
There was a delay of almost four weeks between officials in the Department of Agriculture being told about the first preliminary test results in late December and Mr Coveney being told on Monday.
The opposition accused the minister of being off the ball with his lack of knowledge about the looming food scandal.
But a departmental source said 30,000 tests were carried out every year and that Mr Coveney was notified as soon as the DNA-testing results had been fully confirmed.
This stance was backed up by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which said the department had acted correctly at all times.
An FSAI spokeswoman said it had to carry out additional tests on the frozen burgers after the first DNA tests in an Irish laboratory in November showed the presence of horse meat.
"We couldn't just go on our initial tests. We had to do more tests and we had to do the confirmatory tests in the laboratory in Germany to be doubly sure there was nothing wrong with the lab in Ireland," she said.
In the Dail, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin questioned why Mr Coveney was only told about the final results of the tests last Monday. He said officials in the minister's department had been told about the first test results by the FSAI on December 21.
"Why wasn't the minister told in November or December that such tests were being carried out and that the results of such tests were positive?" he asked.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that the matter had been properly handled by Mr Coveney and his department.
"The FSAI have a process to go through when they carry out tests and the department were informed of the outcome of that process on the 14th of January," he said.
However, he acknowledged the controversy was of "concern" to the country and its €10bn agri-food industry.
"Anything to do with food obviously causes concern across countries," he said.