FSA issues food test protocol as gardaí visit plant

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland yesterday issued a new protocol for testing the authenticity of foods as gardaí turned their attention to a Tipperary meat plant as part of the investigation into the horsemeat saga.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney revealed that B&F Meats in Carrick-On-Suir, which is approved to debone beef and horsemeat, was found to have been sending some horsemeat to a customer in the Czech Republic, via a UK-based trader, using a abel in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef.

Mr Coveney said all operations at B&F had been suspended with immediate effect as officers from the department’s special investigations unit begin a probe.

“The gardaí have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my department,” said Mr Coveney. “The issue is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.”

A new national DNA testing protocol has been agreed between the FSAI and the beef industry, retailers, and caterers, while Mr Coveney said only horsemeat testing negative for residues of horse drug phenylbutazone will be allowed on the market. He said his department was stepping up plans for a Central Database for Equine Identification.

The new ‘Protocol for the Sampling and Analysis of Foods Containing Beef for the Presence of Undeclared Equine Material’ was published by the FSAI yesterday and is valid until the end of April.

Key requirements include that all food business operators ensure that foods they produce or supply satisfy requirements of food law; that labelling, advertising, and presentation of food must not mislead consumers; and that firms with samples testing positive for horsemeat at or above 1% must inform the FSAI immediately.

Meanwhile, Birds Eye yesterday announced it was withdrawing some products as a precaution following discovery of horse DNA.

Iglo Foods Group, which owns Birds Eye and Findus, said 2% horse DNA had been found in a Birds Eye chilli con carne product, produced by Belgian firm Frigilunch NV and sold in Belgium.

As a result, other products made by the same company for Birds Eye have been withdrawn from sale in Ireland and Britain, as well as in Belgium. The products include traditional spaghetti bolognese 340g, shepherd’s Pie 400g, and beef lasagne 400g.

Yesterday, catering company Sodexo, which also operates in Ireland, said that it would be withdrawing all its frozen beef products from 2,300 outlets after British Food Standards Agency horsemeat test results.

In a statement, the company said: “Despite repeated guarantees from our suppliers, our sampling has identified a frozen beef product which tested positive for equine DNA.

“This situation is totally unacceptable.”

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