AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney has defended the two week delay in notifying the public about the presence of horse meat in beef burgers.
He confirmed that his department had been told about the first results from tests by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland into frozen burgers on December 21 last.
But Mr Coveney said there had been no public health risk to the public - and that there had been a need to carry out further testing.
"It's important that if you take tests and you get a result like this, and there's no danger to human health, which there isn't, but if there is a significant reputational threat to an industry, you have to make sure those results are accurate," he said.
Mr Coveney said the final results confirming the presence of horse meat traces in the frozen burgers had only come through on January 11 to the FSAI and to his own department on January 14.
"I found out about this on Monday and we started a full investigation on Tuesday (yesterday). We have acted as quickly as we can," he said.
Mr Coveney said it was suspected that the source of the horse meat DNA was the extra protein additive used in the frozen burgers. He said this ingredient, which is used to hold the burgers together, had been imported from the Netherlands and Spain. He pledged that the public would be told as soon as this information was available.
The timeline of events was earlier outlined in the Dail by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who said that a full investigation was now underway into the ingredients used in the manufacture of the burgers.
He said that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland had taken samples from supermarket products, including 27 frozen beef burgers, in mid November.
They were sent to a laboratory for testing. Resampling was carried out due to concerns about the results and these samples were sent abroad for testing.
The Department of Agriculture was notified by the FSAI about its investigation into the suspected presence of horse meat in frozen beef burger samples on December 21. It assisted the FSAI in taking samples of raw product in the processing plants at the centre of the controversy.
The FSAI received the results of these tests on January 11, showing that one of the 27 frozen burgers contained 29pc horse meat. Ten of the burgers contained low levels of horse meat DNA, while 23 of them contained low levels of pigmeat DNA.