Burger contamination traced to Polish ingredient

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney says his department has made a major breakthrough in tracing the source of the horse meat found in Irish beefburgers.

Simon Coveney told a news conference this evening that an ingredient sourced from Poland, and used at Silvercrest plant in Monaghan for the past year is highly likely to have been the cause of the contamination.

He said positive test results from three burgers produced at the plant since January contained a common ingredient sourced from Poland.

"Results received overnight were positive for equine DNA in meat imported from another (EU) member state as raw material for the production of burgers at Silvercrest," Minister Coveney said.

"While earlier results had shown trace levels of equine DNA in imported raw materials, the latest results showed significant levels of equine DNA, (4.1%) in raw material which was used in the manufacture of burgers.

"The investigation has therefore established a direct correlation between burgers in which a high level of equine DNA was detected and this raw material product. "

The product is beef filler made up of fat cuts and trims which had been supplied to Silvercrest for the past year.

The Minister said management at the plant in Monaghan is to be changed, all the meat produced there will be removed, and future product will only be sourced from Ireland and the UK.

The plant is also to undergo a deep cleansing and will submit to a six month period of direct scrutiny by Department inspectors, after which it will be reviewed.

Minister Coveney said the intensive investigation into the burger contamination incident was now winding down.

ABP Food Group, owners of the Silvercrest plant, welcomed the statement from Minister Coveney saying it confirmed the company's initial view that this contamination originated from third party continental supply.

The company reiterated that it had never knowingly bought or processed horse meat and all of its purchases are from approved and licensed EU plants

“This has been a very difficult experience for all involved and has led to a significant interruption in business for Silvercrest and its customers," said ABP chief executive Paul Finnerty.

ABP said it would be implementing a number of measures in the wake of the scandal, including the appointment of a new management team at the Silvercrest facility, an audit of all third-party suppliers and a new DNA testing regime.

The company said the source of the contaminated meat from Poland is not related to ABP’s plant in Poznan.

"As with all other parts of the Group this plant does not process any horse meat," a statement said.

"We are relieved that the source of the problem has been identified.”

“While the company has never knowingly purchased or traded in equine product, I wish to take this opportunity to apologise for the impact this issue has caused.”

In a separate statement, Tesco said it also welcomed the Minister's clarification.

"The findings announced by the Minister correlate with the results of our own investigations at the plant," a Tesco spokesperson said.

"We will give detailed consideration to all the findings during next week."

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