Coveney: DNA meat tests will be ‘routine’

DNA testing of meat will become a routine part of food testing nationwide, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said.

The move comes after cold storage firm QK Cold Stores in Naas, Co Kildare, confirmed that tests on consignments of imported beef product returned positive for horse DNA.

The company said it had isolated the contaminated meat and informed the Department of Agriculture.

“QK Cold Stores can confirm that, as part of its own quality controls, the company conducted DNA testing on consignments of imported beef product which revealed the presence of equine DNA,” it said in a statement.

“Upon discovery, these consignments were immediately isolated and either returned to the suppliers concerned or detained at QK Cold Stores facility.”

The Department of Agriculture and Food Safety Authority of Ireland agreed a national protocol for DNA testing of meat would be applied at retail, catering, and processing level.

“We intend to introduce DNA testing from now on as part of routine food testing across the country,” said Mr Coveney.

Earlier, one of the country’s largest catering companies revealed it discovered horsemeat in burgers it supplied to a number of sites both north and south of the border.

Compass Group Ireland said the burgers — from Rangeland Foods in Co Monaghan — had been supplied to 13 sites in the Republic and 27 in the North — including two secondary schools. The firm has withdrawn the burgers as a precaution and issued an apology to its customers.

“Despite receiving written assurances from Rangeland Foods that none of the identified horse DNA had entered its production, we immediately took the precautionary measure of withdrawing this product and we stopped any further purchases,” Compass said.

“We subsequently carried out a DNA test on a sample of the withdrawn product, which identified a minor amount of horse DNA.”

Compass said it would now launch a DNA testing programme across its processed meat products.

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney said that European officials had agreed to test for phenylbutazone — or “bute”, a veterinary drug given to horses. He and his European counterparts also agreed for a pan-European approach to the ongoing horsemeat scandal — which will include sharing information on testing to trace back to different sources of contamination.

“We have made significant steps forward this week in our investigations nationally but also in securing a significant response at European level to this ongoing controversy,” he said. “We now have a comprehensive EU monitoring programme in place introduced by the commission at the behest of the Irish presidency.

“Our investigation continues and information is being shared bilaterally with other competent authorities and with Europol.”

Mr Coveney said Ireland continues to be at the forefront of both highlighting and solving the fraudulent mislabelling of meat.

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