ABP chief executive Paul Finnerty — whose company supplied Tesco with beef burgers that turned out to be 29% horsemeat — has told Britain’s food committee it became clear on Jan 14 to 15 that the firm was “out of specification” because product was coming in from a combination of suppliers that were not approved.
Asked how long he thought this had been going on for, the head of the Larry Goodman-owned firm answered: “I think it had been going on for a number of months”.
“This is a matter that we apologise for and as a business we apologise unreservedly for what happened at [the company’s plant] Silvercrest in the context of specification.
“We never as a business knowingly bought, ordered, processed any horsemeat in our business. We were a victim of a fraud that we now see as a Europe-wide issue in the context of how this has evolved over the last number of weeks at Silvercrest.”
He said traceability had shown that the substantial part of the contamination was derived from Poland.
He confirmed Tesco’s assertion that Silvercrest went outside the supply chain to unapproved suppliers. However, he also agreed that this was “an entirely lone operation of Silvercrest management at that point”.
Meanwhile, Birds Eye claimed horse DNA found in two products had originated with QK Meats in Co Kildare.
In a statement, Birds Eye said tests on the spaghetti bolognese 340g and beef lasagne 400g, withdrawn on Feb 22, had shown the presence of horse DNA.
“Our investigation has shown that Frigilunch NV (who supplied these products to us) was itself supplied meat with horse in it by an Irish meat processor, QK Meats,” Birds Eye said.
“Frigilunch NV’s own independent tests and investigation have confirmed our findings.”
Birds Eye said it had informed the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and said Frigilunch NV had suspended supply from QK Meats. Birds Eye has also introduced “a new ongoing triple-lock DNA testing programme that will ensure no minced beef meat product can reach supermarket shelves without first having been cleared by three stages of DNA testing”.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the quality manager at Frigilunch NV in Belgium, Anthony Botelberge, said the firm was considering legal action against QK.
He said tests conducted by Frigilunch showed that horsemeat was present in just one of 27 products tested for horse DNA — the one for which QK had provided the raw materials.
“With our customers in the last weeks we were mapping the complete supply chain,” he said. “It’s very clear — there is one raw material, one source, and that’s it.”
He said the raw material “should have been 100% minced beef” and that Frigilunch had only been dealing with QK since last year. “They always told us they were sourcing it from one de-boner,” he said.
Yesterday QK Meats said in a statement: “QK Meats has never knowingly incorporated horsemeat into any of its beef products.”
It added: “Following the discovery of equine DNA in product allegedly supplied by QK Meats to Frigilunch NV, a supplier to Birds Eye, QK Meats has launched a full investigation into its supply chain.”
*The Department of Agriculture probe into the horsemeat scandal is continuing and an interim report could be published later this month. It is looking into all aspects of the controversy and, in the meantime, many companies involved are also conducted their own reviews.
*The investigation into Silvercrest — producer of the original 29% “horse burger” — is ongoing according to the company, which said initial findings indicated that, while Silvercrest purchased beef products in good faith, horse DNA originating in Poland was present in some products.
*Rangeland Foods is back in production but is still part of the departmental investigation.
*QK Meats has launched an investigation into how minced beef it provided to Belgian firm Frigilunch NV and which ultimately made its way into Birds Eye bolognese and lasagne came to contain horsemeat. It has been involved in the departmental investigation since mid-February.
*B&F Meats in Carrick-On-Suir is back in business following the temporary suspension of operations when the Department of Agriculture raised concerns over horsemeat allegedly being provided to a Czech company labelled as beef. The company said its own review of its systems vindicated its view that it had done nothing wrong. The company is still part of the departmental probe.
*Liffey Meats, the other company caught up in the controversy when it first broke in January, was also one of the first to be cleared after lab tests showed no presence of equine DNA in a range of beef burgers sampled by the department.
*The investigation into Greencore’s Nenagh ABP facility by the company is complete, with results showing it was not the source of any horse contamination.
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