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Thursday 18 September 2014

Q&A: What exactly were we eating?

Published 16/01/2013 | 05:00

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Results of testing carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) found that 10 out of 27 burgers contained horse meat, while 23 of the 27 had traces of pig meat. In addition, 21 out of 31 beef products – lasagne, cottage pie and beef curry pie – also had traces of pig DNA.

• Why were the tests carried out?

The FSAI said it was a random test, carried out as part of a series of tests they do every year.

• When and how were they carried out?

Last November, inspectors purchased burgers from leading supermarkets including Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Superquinn, SuperValu and Iceland and sent them to a laboratory for testing. Some contained horse meat, some had pig meat and some had both. Confirmatory tests were conducted both in Ireland and Germany.

• Which had the highest concentration of horse meat?

Some 29.1pc of the meat content of the Tesco Everyday Value beef burger was horse. Of the nine other burgers, trace amounts were found. The FSAI is trying to discover why the Tesco burger had such a high concentration.

• How many processors were producing burgers with horse?

Three – Silvercrest Foods plant in Monaghan, which is owned by businessman Larry Goodman; Liffey Meats based in Cavan; and the UK-based Dalepak Hambleton.

• Where do they think it came from?

One of the companies, Silvercrest, said it believes the horse meat may have come from two EU suppliers.

• How could it have happened?

There is no explanation as to why horse meat should be in the burgers of the factory. The FSAI is still investigating.

• But what about the pork meat?

This is more easily answered. Many of the plants would also process pork, so trace elements may have remained on the processing line. The FSAI said that DNA can be easily transmitted, and only trace elements were found.

• Why does this matter?

Lots of reasons. Ireland's beef exports are worth some €2bn a year, and anything that impacts on that can have serious repercussions. Beef with pork or horse suggests the product is not of the highest quality. Also, while some European neighbours eat horse, we don't. Muslims don't eat pork for religious reasons, and traces of pig meat in Irish products won't entice them to buy more.

• Are there health concerns?

No. The FSAI said there is no food safety risk at all. Consumers should not be worried, it said.

• Why weren't the public told sooner?

The FSAI said because there is no public health issue, the processors and retailers were told first. Press releases were issued yesterday afternoon.

• When were the companies told?

The meat processors, one of which is based in the UK, were told on Monday at 6pm. The supermarkets that sold the meats were told yesterday morning.

• What has the Department of Agriculture been doing?

It inspects meat processing plants, and is carrying out detailed inspections to trace the source of the horse meat.

Irish Independent

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