| 1.2°C Dublin

Chicken products tested for horse meat

IRISH food companies are testing chicken products for horse meat after it was found in chicken nuggets in Greece.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said yesterday that it has no plans to test chicken products itself, but that the industry has been carrying out its own tests and had pledged to report all results.

The Greek authorities recalled chicken nuggets from sale last week after they were found to contain up to 25pc horse meat.

FSAI chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said it remained focused on testing beef as this was at the centre of the recent horse-meat scandal.

He said that it was the food industry's responsibility to check the authenticity of all its products. He believed it was inconceivable that horse meat would be found in chicken nuggets here but any such results would come to light as the industry had committed to reporting any positive findings to the FSAI under an agreed new testing protocol.

He told an All-Ireland State Veterinarians Conference in Dublin that the EU is to bring in new legal requirements on companies to report any discovery of fraudulent behaviour in the food chain, similar to the requirement to report any food safety issue.

Prof Reilly said that the results of Europe-wide tests on the beef and horsemeat chain would be reported on April 15 after which the EU would put an action plan in place to safeguard against similar scandals in the future.

"What we have to do now is make sure this never ever happens again and strengthen the overall response at European level," he said.

The horse-meat crisis could have been much less severe if an Irish company had reported its discovery of horse DNA in beef last summer, allowing it be investigated then, Professor Reilly said at the conference. QK Meats found horse meat in beef last June but returned it to Poland and did not tell the authorities about this discovery until February. Prof Reilly stressed there had been no legal obligation on the company to report its findings but this would change.

"In future we will see some form of requirement at European level on companies where they find something fraudulent to report that," he said.

The EU Commission has a five-point plan to prevent future food fraud cases, including compulsory networking between member states, better labelling and much higher fines for fraud.

Prof Reilly added that he could never have imagined that a routine investigation would spark an international scandal.

Irish Independent