ABP identifies source of horse DNA contamination
ABP says it has identified the source of contaminated material that has resulted in the discovery of horse DNA in beef burgers sold by Tesco and other retailers in the UK and Ireland.
The Anglo-Irish meat processor has traced the meat to one of two, as yet unnamed, ‘third party EU suppliers’ it has been investigating since the discovery of the equine DNA in its burgers as revealed.
As a result, production has been suspended at ABP’s Silvercrest plant, in County Monaghan, Ireland, one of two ABP plants linked to the contamination in the initial investigation by the Food Standards Authority of Ireland.
The decision follows the release of further test results by Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, which show the presence of horse DNA in more products.
“Because horse DNA has been found in finished products tested this week, we have decided that the responsible course of action is to suspend all production at the Silvercrest plant in county Monaghan with immediate effect,” ABP said in a statement on Thursday evening.
Silvercrest, which produces 3.7 milliion burgers per week, has been forced to withdraw 10 m burgers as a result of the contamination.
Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has welcomed ABP’s decision to suspend all production at the plant with immediate effect until it completes its investigation.
On Thursday evening, Mr Coveney announced preliminary laboratory results indicating the presence of equine DNA in samples of burgers taken on Tuesday from product manufactured at the Silvercrest plant between January 3 and 14.
Seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another ‘member state’, tested positive. All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for equine DNA.
Thirteen samples of finished burgers were tested for the presence of equine DNA. Nine have tested positive for traces of equine DNA and another four have tested negative. The Minister and the FSAI have arranged to have these positive samples further analysed in Germany with a view to quantifying the percentage of equine DNA present.
Mr Coveney said the Department was continuing its examination of all raw ingredients used in the production of the affected products and that this, together with the further laboratory tests being conducted in Germany should give greater clarity to the source of the original problem.
“The focus of the investigation is now to establish a common ingredient used in the manufacture of burgers in all three plants and from where it was sourced,” he said.
“The Minister and the FSAI have repeated their clear statement that there is no concern from a food safety perspective.”
ABP anticipates that the Silvercrest facility will be closed for ‘several days in order to complete the sanitation process’. All staff would continue to be paid while production is suspended at the plant.
“We will be working with the relevant authorities, management and supervisory team to complete our investigation. We will continue to communicate with our customers and suppliers over the coming days,” ABP said.
It also responded to reports that products supplied to the Burger King fast food chain could also be affected.
“We would like to reiterate that all BURGER KING® products produced by us are stored separately and manufactured on an independent line. There is no evidence of any contamination of raw material used for the manufacture of any BURGER KING® products,” the statement said.
Silvercrest produce a wide range of burgers for retailers, including Tesco, in the UK, Ireland and the rest of the EU under ‘own label’ brands and under the Flamehouse Brand, from their ‘state of the art’ production plant in BallyBay.
In a statement on Wednesday ABP revealed that its own investigations are focussing on two European plants that supply it with beef ingredients, which are added to forequarter mince in the processing of the burgers. While it did not name the plants, the FSAI revealed that ingredients imported from Spain and the Netherlands had been found to contain horse DNA.
ABP said it had dispatched auditors to conduct ‘unannounced spot checks’ at the two European sites and that it was conducting its own DNA tests ‘on a wide number of samples’.
ABP added that it would ‘consider the possibility of legal action’ against the plants should its own tests on samples prove positive.