TEN million burgers have been recalled from the foodchain following the discovery of horsemeat in beef products.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that one company at the centre of the scandal, Silvercrest, had recalled its burgers while an investigation was under way into how the horsemeat got into them.
A burger supplied by Silvercrest to Tesco was found to contain 29pc horsemeat sparking a major probe by the company and the Department of Agriculture into how this happened.
The investigation was currently looking at beef protein powder supplied from the continent and used in burgers as a potential source.
There was no risk to public health from the horsemeat but it was unacceptable that consumers would be given something they didn't want when they purchased beef burgers, Mr Coveney said.
"The reason we are responding like this is that Ireland has worked very hard to build the reputation of the food industry," he said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted the burgers posed "no danger to human health".
Mr Kenny also said the reputation of Irish beef was hugely important for international customers including major fast food chains.
"This is very important for Ireland's reputation," Mr Kenny said. "We do supply most of the burgers for McDonald's across the EU."
Mr Coveney said that horse DNA had been discovered in burgers by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in November, after which further tests were carried out and sent to Germany for verification.
These results were received on December 21, after which the Department of Agriculture had provided further samples of ingredients from meat processing plants.
The FSAI had received these test results last Friday and the department was informed of the matter on Monday, following which a recall was undertaken by supermarkets yesterday and the public was informed.
UCD Food safety Professor Patrick Wall of UCD said that the discovery of horsemeat in burgers was a disaster for Ireland's reputation as a "food island" and major food exporter.
More test results were needed to establish the source of the horsemeat and these results would be available in a few days.
Total openness and transparency was essential to restore the reputation of the food industry, Professor Wall said.
DNA testing was not the norm in any country as most food safety tests were for contaminants such as dioxins or microbes that could be damaging to health.