Coveney to convene horsemeat discussion

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will head up a meeting of European agriculture ministers today where information will be shared among member states on the mislabelling of meat products.

The meeting comes after Polish authorities arrived in Ireland to meet Department of Agriculture officials about the Irish inquiry into the presence of horsemeat in beef products.

Several Polish vets will examine the tests and paper trail established by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland amid claims that Poland was the source of the contamination.

The vets will remain here for the week and an Irish vet will later this month travel to Poland for talks there.

Mr Coveney said he wants the meeting in Brussels to discuss “whatever steps may be necessary at EU level to comprehensively address this matter”.

He called the meeting as Ireland heads up the EU presidency and as the issue of contamination emerges across member states.

Mr Coveney has already agreed with his British counterpart, Owen Paterson, that both countries should have a close trading relationship on the issue and agree an approach for protecting the authenticity of ingredients used in the manufacture of meat products.

Irish manufacturers of processed meat have been ordered to carry out DNA testing of ingredients. Gardaí and the FSAI continue to investigate the origin of horsemeat found in beef products here.

Mr Coveney also said his department has investigated complaints about forged documents in the Irish horse slaughtering industry.

He said work at two slaughtering factories had been temporarily suspended last year and in 2011 following investigations.

“Where forged or tampered passports accompanying horses to slaughter are detected, it is policy that such animals are destroyed and removed from the food chain,” said Mr Coveney.

Mr Coveney said the Government is determined to ensure that horsemeat is not fraudulently entering the food chain as a result of false passports for the animals or because huge numbers are being put down for financial reasons.

However, he said he could not be 100% sure that no horse in Ireland has a false passport.

Mr Coveney stressed that there was no evidence to suggest there was any connection between horses that had been slaughtered in Ireland and the discovery of horsemeat in Irish beef products.

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