Sunday 21 January 2018

Food chief hits out at 'criminals' in European meat supply chain

Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney
Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney

Aideen Sheehan and Donal O'Donovan

THE horse-meat scandal shows that criminals have infiltrated the food industry, according to the Agriculture minister's brother and head of major food producer Greencore.

Patrick Coveney, the chief executive of Greencore, is the brother of Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

Greencore hit the headlines this month when it was revealed that some jars of its bolognese sauce sold in supermarkets in the UK contained traces of horse meat.

Yesterday Patrick Coveney told a meeting of some of the country's most senior managers in Dublin that the horsemeat scandal has proved that criminals are active in the industry.

The scandal revealed the "emergence of genuine criminality in the European supply chain", he said.

The profits to be made by passing off horse meat as beef has led to, in some cases, criminal mislabelling of food, he added.

Meanwhile B&F Meats – which was investigated over alleged mislabelling of horsemeat being exported to the Czech Republic via a UK trader – has been allowed resume operations after the Department of Agriculture said it was powerless to stop it.

The department said last night that "as previously stated, the minister is very unhappy at the false labelling that has taken place at B&F Meats".

"However B&F Meats have now complied with all the requirements of the Compliance Notice served on the company and (the) department is not in a position to prevent the company resuming business.

"The company will however from now on be subject to more stringent official controls having regard to the recent incident," it said in a statement.

The question of taking legal proceedings was also "under active consideration" by the gardai and the department.

B&F Meats said: "From the start of the investigation the company was satisfied that its records would clearly show that it had not at any stage misrepresented the nature of its products and that it had at all times acted in accordance with the terms of its contract with its UK-based client and its own documented operational procedures."

B&F said it had voluntarily made all its files and computer data available to the department investigators to ensure a speedy conclusion.

"Although the past five days have been very stressful for both management and staff of B&F Meats, the company wishes to place on the record its appreciation for the professional manner in which the investigation by the department's officers was conducted."

Poland has meanwhile confirmed that it found horse meat in beef at three coldstores.

The country's General Veterinary Inspectorate said in a statement on Wednesday night that it found three samples containing horse DNA out of 121 tested.

The Department of Agriculture here has refused to comment on whether these latest positive samples in Poland came from plants which had supplied meat to Irish processors, saying "the investigation is ongoing".

Irish Independent

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