Irish firm discovered horse DNA last summer - but said nothing
THE Irish meat company QK Meats discovered horse DNA in imported meat last summer, but did not inform the Department of Agriculture of this until last month.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has criticised QK Meats in Naas for its "inexcusable" failure to disclose its discovery of horsemeat until weeks after the horsemeat contamination scandal erupted in public.
"This failure on the part of QK Meats senior management showed scant regard for the public good and was a serious failure of judgement on its part in not revealing to the official authorities, information that could have shortened the initial phase of the investigation in identifying the likely source of the equine DNA," the department's official report on the Equine DNA investigation found.
QK Meats found horse DNA in seven consignments of meat imported from Poland, and the earliest of these test results was in June 2012, with more received between October 2012 and January 2013.
The company had then contacted the Polish supplier who arranged to take back the consignment and reimburse QK Meats.
The company has previously insisted it complied with regulatory requirements.
Mr Coveney also criticised the Larry Goodman-owned ABP Silvercrest plant for not respecting customer specifications about what could be used in their products.
Speaking in the Dail he criticised ABP's failure to maintain proper oversight of Silvercrest, which produced the burgers containing 29pc horsemeat which kickstarted the whole Europe-wide horsemeat crisis.
"The companies have let themselves down as well as risking reputational damage to the Irish food sector itself," he said.
But he said there was no evidence that either Silvercrest or Rangeland Meats had deliberately purchased or used horsemeat in their production processes or that they were relabeling or tampering with inward consignments.
He also revealed that operations have been suspended at the slaughterhouse Ossory Meats in Co Offaly after irregularities were discovered there last Friday.
Identification checks on horses presented for slaughter there had shown that 25 of them had irregularities relating to passports and microchips.
In some cases the marking on the horse and the passports were very different and some horses presented as yearlings were actually much older.