Saturday 24 June 2017

Video: Government can't explain four-week delay in telling Coveney about horse meat in beef burgers

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

The Government has failed to explain why Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was not notified for almost four weeks by his department about the discovery of horse meat in frozen beef burgers.

The issue was brought up in the Dail ahead of the expected release of test results into samples at the two processing plants which produced the burgers containing traces of horse meat.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the first tests on the frozen burgers had carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last November and December.

But he questioned why Agriculture Minister Simon 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.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said he did not have this level of detail.

“All of this, the sequencing, the degree of knowledge, the quality of the result, can be put in very clear questions to the Minister for Agriculture, he’ll lay it out in a completely open, in a completely transparent way,” he said.

Mr Howlin was standing in at Leader’s Questions for Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who has travelled to Belfast for meetings about resolving the violent protests over the removal of the Union Jack flag from Belfast City Hall.

Mr Howlin said that the presence of horse meat in beef burgers had been discovered by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which showed that the regulatory system here was working.

“They identified it. It was here. Irish product was examined by Irish authorities and made known by Irish authorities,” he said.

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