Filler ingredient from Poland is the source of horse DNA found in beef burgers on sale in the UK and Ireland, according to Irish agriculture officials.

Fresh tests on the suspected Polish ingredient have shown up to 20% horse DNA content relative to beef, Ireland's agriculture ministry said at the weekend. This confirms earlier tests that pointed to Poland as the source of the horse DNA in beef burgers.

It has taken ten days of intense investigation by UK and Irish food safety officials to track down the source of the horse DNA, which has led to recalls by Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland, as well as "precautionary" recalls by Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose

However, the Poland-based ingredient producer's identity remains unclear. APB Food, which has seen two of its processing facilities as the centre of the horse scandal, denied over the weekend that its own plant in Poland had any involvement.

"The source of the contaminated meat from Poland is not related to ABP’s plant in Poznan," said the firm. "As with all other parts of the Group this plant does not process any horse meat." 

In addition, the source of pig DNA found in several beef ready meal products remains unclear. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency is conducting DNA tests across the meat supply chain to understand the extent of undeclared meat in products. 

Late last week, Tesco was forced into a fresh investigation after it emerged one of its stores in the UK overrode a recall notice to sell withdrawn beef burgers to a BBC journalist.

Since the scandal broke, further tests on the key suppliers involved - APB Food and Liffey Meats - show no new cases of horse DNA in their products. APB has introduced DNA testing on meat, "over and above any legal requirements", it said at the weekend.

The processor's CEO, Paul Finnerty, apologised for "the impact this issue has caused". He added that, since the issue became public, APB has restructured its business, putting its Silvercreat plant within APB Ireland and Dalepak in APB UK.

Show the press release

Major Breakthrough on identifying the source of Equine DNA - Irish Ingredients tested clear

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD this afternoon announced a major breakthrough in the joint investigation by his Department and the FSAI into the source of equine DNA in beef burgers. The Minister confirmed that results received overnight were positive for equine DNA in meat imported from another Member State as raw material for the production of burgers at Silvercrest.

While earlier results had shown trace levels of equine DNA  in imported raw materials, the latest results showed significant levels of equine DNA, (4.1%) in raw material which was used in the manufacture of burgers which the Department found yesterday to contain significant amounts of Equine DNA. The investigation has therefore established a direct correlation between burgers in which a high level of equine DNA was detected and this raw material product. The Minister said he was confident that this finding leads to a firm conclusion that the raw material in question was the source of equine DNA introduced into burgers manufactured at Silvercrest.

The Minister also reaffirmed that tests on samples taken from Irish food ingredients were negative and he was pleased that the integrity of Irish food production was maintained.

The objective of the intensive investigation carried out by the Department and the FSAI was to identify the source of the equine DNA and to find the cause of the problem.

From the point of view of preserving the integrity and reputation of the Irish Food Industry it was particularly important that the investigation was carried out in a thorough, prompt, secure and transparent manner. Very significant resources were deployed around the clock by his Department and FSAI to find the source of this food incident so that consumers can be fully reassured. Over 140 samples of primary products and ingredients have been tested for equine DNA. Three burgers and one imported ingredient tested positive for significant levels of equine DNA.

The Minister said that there had been engagement with the company at senior level since the start. Under food legislation, the company has primary responsibility for the quality and standards of production at the plant and had carried out its own investigation. The current findings of the official investigation do not show any evidence that the company deliberately used horsemeat in their production process. The authorities in the Member State concerned have been informed of the findings of the investigation.

The Minister said that his priority since day one was to ensure that whatever the findings, procedures would be put in place to uphold the integrity of food produced in Ireland and that our reputation and good standing internationally for our food exports would be maintained. In that regard he has been assured by ABP management that it will fully comply with conditions the Minister will apply to continued production standards at Silvercrest.

The company will commence a deep cleansing of the plant under new management and will submit to a six month period of direct scrutiny by Department inspectors, after which it will be reviewed. As part of this supervision, the Department will carry out weekly sampling of production in order to provide the necessary reassurance to its customers on the integrity of the production chain. A key component of this is the company’s commitment to source all its raw material from Ireland and the UK.

In conclusion, the Minister said that the intensive investigation is now winding down.

Date Released: 26 January 2013

Original source: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/press/pressreleases/2013/january/title,68551,en.html