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Thursday 21 November 2019

No prosecutions here in horse-meat scandal

Ralph Riegel and Aideen Sheehan

NO prosecutions will take place in Ireland over the horse-meat scandal that has rocked the Irish beef sector and is likely to cost 140 workers their jobs.

But a visibly angry Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was demanding answers from the Polish authorities over how "inaccurately labelled" meat was shipped to Ireland, resulting in horsemeat getting into burgers produced here.

Results from Poland yesterday showed no evidence of horse DNA from five slaughterhouses tested, but results from another plant will not be known until Monday.

Mr Coveney launched a scathing attack on the management of the ABP Silvercrest facility in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, saying they had let themselves, their firm and the Irish food industry down.

The Larry Goodman-owned Silvercrest plant is reeling from the loss of burger contracts from Tesco, Burger King, Asda, Co-op and Aldi, believed to be worth more than €50m, after horse-meat was found in some burgers. The old management team at the plant has been replaced since the scandal erupted.

"Because of very poor management at the Silvercrest facility, the contracts that big clients like Tesco and Burger King had with them were breached – that should not have happened," Mr Coveney said.

"People have let themselves down, they have let their company down and, in many ways, they have let the Irish food sector down."

Community leaders in Ballybay announced plans yesterday to try and safeguard the 140 jobs at the Silvercrest plant.

Ballybay Mayor Liz Duffy said everyone was concerned about its future after the loss of the multi-million euro contracts.


"This is one of the biggest employers in the area and we want to ensure that the jobs are safe," she said.

Mr Coveney said he shared the concerns of Silvercrest's 140 workers over the dwindling hopes of the plant reopening.

But he said issues about how horse meat ended up in an export shipment marked 'beef' were now a matter for the Polish authorities. And he effectively ruled out any Irish prosecutions, saying that the issues involved were a corporate matter.

Mr Coveney added that he was working to try and win back contracts lost at Silvercrest for the Irish food sector, as the plant itself was a valuable asset.

"What I am saying is that the Silvercrest (plant) is probably the best of its type in the world for producing large volumes of burgers. Unfortunately the facility was very poorly managed.

"So we need to try to figure out a way in which that infrastructure can be used in the future for the betterment of the Irish food sector so we can supply huge customers like Burger King and Tesco with quality Irish beef into the future," he said.

Irish Independent

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