The Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland has issued an update on its investigation into a meat coldstore operated by Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd, in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh.

The focus of the inquiry is on repackaging, relabelling and distribution of meat, the agency said. Investigators have been examining evidence obtained from the coldstore including paper and computer records. Over the last 15 days, this has enabled the agency to issue three food alerts requiring local authority action, the most recent one on Thursday afternoon.

Relevant local authorities are contacting companies that have received Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd product to establish whether the product has illicit health markings. Suspect product is being detained for further investigation. The local authorities are also tracing product that has been sold on to other businesses.

Investigators are also attempting to trace back the products in the Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd coldstore to their source, to assess whether the product has come from legitimate sources and has been handled correctly.

The evidence uncovered so far has identified wide ranging distribution of Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd product, some of which is likely to be legitimate, other of which could be suspect. The distribution includes the UK and other member states of the European Union. As this evidence emerges, the agency is contacting the European Commission so that member states and any other countries can be alerted to possible suspect product having entered their country. Product that appears to have been exported from Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd includes beef, poultry and pork.
'This is a complex and ongoing investigation," said Morris McAllister, director, Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland. "Large amounts of evidence are being scrutinised and as soon as we obtain useful information it is being shared with local authorities, the European Commission and others who can assist with tracking down suspect product. At this stage, no specific food safety issues have been identified in relation to any particular products but we are continuing to examine the evidence and will update as necessary."

This FSA-led investigation was initiated following a Department of Agriculture and Rural Development visit to the coldstore on 9 November, accompanied by the police, when the premises were secured and product detained. The premises remain secure and the Agency suspended the coldstore's operating licence on 18 November.

The origins of the DARD activity and suspicions in relation to suspected irregular activity involving Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd date back to August 2005. DARD informed the FSA that chicken originating from China, for importation into Northern Ireland via Greece, was seized at Belfast port and subsequently destroyed by DARD officials on animal health grounds. None of this product entered the food chain.