Food firm apologises for keeping quiet about horse meat in products
QK Meats has apologised for its delay in informing the Department of Agriculture that it had discovered horse meat in beef products last year.
The department said it was still considering whether to prosecute QK Meats and its investigation was continuing into the Naas-based company.
"The investigation is continuing in relation to QK. The subject of prosecution is under consideration," it said.
However, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he did not think QK Meats had broken the law though he was "very unhappy with the way they've been operating".
He was speaking on RTE radio after the department's official investigation into the horse-meat scandal branded as "inexcusable" the company's delay in informing it of the discovery of horse DNA in beef as far back as last June.
QK Meats said it had acted in good faith when it discovered horse DNA in beef consignments from Poland last year and had either returned or quarantined that product and could "categorically state that it did not introduce any product that tested positive into the food chain".
The company added: "As events subsequently transpired however, it is now clear that our actions fell short, specifically in not contacting the department sooner.
"We have apologised to the department for this, deeply regret it and any breach of trust which it has caused given our commitment to food quality and safety."
Meanwhile, the Larry Goodman-owned ABP Food Group has said it is "bitterly disappointed" by criticisms of it made by Mr Coveney in the Dail and in the report into the scandal.
Regarding the claim it has done reputational damage to the Irish food industry, ABP said chilled beef sales, which accounted for 95pc of the Irish beef trade, had been unaffected and market prices for cattle were at a historical high.
The company had already apologised to its customers and stakeholders for its shortcoming, it said, but it had also been a victim of the equine fraud and the cost of this and its breach of customer specifications had been considerable.
More produce was affected by the scandal yesterday when Aldi withdrew a frozen meatloaf from sale in Irish and British stores after the UK Food Standards Agency revealed it contained horse meat.
The product is from the same processor, Eurostock, which supplied the contaminated meatloaf withdrawn from Tesco supermarkets in Ireland and the UK earlier this week.
Aldi has withdrawn all remaining stock from stores.
Mr Coveney has also been unable to guarantee that unsafe horse meat has not been supplied to consumers in beef products.
This follows the revelation that Ossory Meats in Co Offaly had its operations suspended after investigators found irregular paperwork for 25 horses being brought to slaughter last Friday.
Mr Coveney said his department was currently testing the carcass of every horse slaughtered to ensure that the meat was safe for human consumption.