| 17.8°C Dublin

Food watchdog hits back at Iceland boss over horse-meat slur

THE food safety watchdog has insisted it is "confident" in its DNA testing after a supermarket boss was dismissive of the Irish approach to the horse-meat crisis.

Iceland chief executive Malcolm Walker replied "that's the Irish, isn't it?" when questioned about the discovery of horse DNA in some of the chain's burgers.

"I know exactly what's in our products. Beef, that's what's in our burgers," Mr Walker said.

He was speaking to the BBC's 'Panorama' programme and was commenting after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) discovered horse DNA in some Iceland burgers.

The supermarket chain subsequently passed checks in Britain.

However, his comments sparked outrage in Ireland last night, as the FSAI moved to staunchly defend its testing.

Mr Walker, pictured, has previously courted controversy by saying he would not personally eat "value" supermarket products "because they won't contain much meat".

He pointed out that Iceland, which has eight stores in Ireland, didn't have a "value" range.

Mr Walker has also described the entire horse-meat scandal as a "storm in a teacup" – but admitted that the words could "come back to haunt him".

The horse-meat scandal has reverberated throughout Europe, resulting in millions of burgers being withdrawn from sale since the FSAI published its findings in mid-January.

Iceland temporarily withdrew two lines of quarter-pounder burgers after the FSAI reported detecting microscopic traces of horse DNA.


Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The company last week stated that independent tests had found that all Iceland own- brand products containing beef were free of horse protein.

Professor Alan Reilly of the FSAI stood over the results from its survey of horse DNA in beef products from two internationally recognised laboratories – Identigen in Dublin and Eurofins Laboratories in Germany.

"Science underpins all policies and actions undertaken by the FSAI," he said.

The food safety watchdog pointed out that its survey had found 0.1pc of equine DNA in samples of burgers from Iceland tested by Identigen. The FSAI said the "positive finding" was still relevant and should trigger investigation.

Prof Reilly also pointed out it undertook the survey as part of "routine monitoring" and there was "no truth" whatsoever that it was following up on intelligence received.

Meanwhile, Irish food giant Greencore has restarted production on its lucrative Asda bolognese sauce contract, following the discovery of traces of horse DNA.

The firm carried out a major "deep-clean" of its UK Bristol production site and has begun a "thorough and comprehensive" investigation into how 4.8pc of equine DNA was discovered in a product it makes for the UK supermarket chain.

Consumer attitudes to horse-meat scandal: Farming Independent

Most Watched