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Monday 20 November 2017

Food plant investigates suppliers after Birds Eye horse-meat claim

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

IRISH meat processor QK Meats is investigating its supply chain after food giant Birds Eye claimed it supplied the horse meat found in some ready meals.

QK Meats said in a statement it had never knowingly incorporated horse meat into any beef products.

This came after Birds Eye yesterday pinpointed QK Meats in Naas as the source of horse meat in its lasagne and spaghetti bolognese meals.

Birds Eye said it had tested 250 products across Europe for horse DNA and three had been found to contain horse meat, including the two pasta ready meals withdrawn from sale as a precaution on February 22.

"Our investigation has shown that Frigilunch NV (who supplied these products to us) was itself supplied meat with horse in it by an Irish meat processor QK Meats.

"Frigilunch NV's own independent tests and investigation have confirmed our findings. We have reported these findings to the FSAI ( Food Safety Authority of Ireland) and Frigilunch NV has taken immediate action and suspended them as a supplier of meat," Birds Eye said in a statement.

QK Meats said in a statement the quality and safety of its products were of the utmost importance and it had been operating for 25 years with an exemplary record and was a fully accredited EU licensed facility.

"QK Meats has never knowingly incorporated horse meat into any of its beef products," it said. "Following the discovery of equine DNA in product allegedly supplied by QK Meats to Frigilunch NVA, a supplier to Birds Eye, QK Meats has launched a full investigation into its supply chain."

QK Meats is part of the Queally family group of food businesses which are headquartered in Waterford.

Its sister company QK Coldstores in Naas was previously caught up in the horse-meat scandal after it found horse meat in meat trimmings at its plant.

QK Coldstores said this product had been returned to Poland or impounded and it had informed the Department of Agriculture and was cooperating with their investigation into the matter.

Another Queally company Oak Fresh Foods – the British division of its Dawn Fresh Foods – last month had its cottage pies withdrawn from schools in Lancashire after provisional tests indicated the presence of horse DNA.

QK Meats is part of the Arrow Group in Waterford which had a turnover of €391m in 2011. It is 50pc owned by John Queally who is also a director of Dawn Meats in Waterford.

Dawn Meats has a lucrative contract supplying burgers to McDonalds restaurants throughout Europe and has stressed it is a totally separate company from QK although it has some shareholders in common.

McDonalds said it did not source any meat from QK Meats and all DNA tests on its burgers had proved negative for horse DNA as reported to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Birds Eye said that it has now introduced a triple lock-DNA testing programme.

The Department of Agriculture said it had no comment.

Meanwhile, ABP chief executive Paul Finnerty appeared before the UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in London yesterday and apologised for his company's part in the horse-meat scandal.

He said that his company, which supplied Tesco with beefburgers that turned out to be 29pc horse, was "out of specification" on January 14 to 15 because product was coming in from a combination of suppliers that were not approved.

Asked how long he thought this had been going on for, he answered: "I think it had been going on for a number of months."

Irish Independent

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