Irish food processor ABP Food Group has sold its Silvercrest facility, one of the plants at the centre of the horsemeat contamination scandal, to food producer Kepak.

The deal, which is subject to competition authority approval, was sold in order to enable to ABP to “move forward positively” with its core chilled beef business and to develop its other operations, it said today (18 April). The plant was in the spotlight in the initial weeks of the horsemeat saga in January after beef burgers made at the facility were found to contain horsemeat.

The sale, for an undisclosed sum, will see the 122 staff employed at the facility stay with Kepak. In the last three months since the horsemeat saga emerged, ABP said it had kept the workers on full pay while the future of the plant was resolved.

“The decision to sell the facility is the right one for both the wider group and also for the 122 employees at the Co. Monaghan site who transfer as part of the deal,” said chief executive Paul Finnerty. “Our decision to sell the Ballybay facility allows the group to move forward positively with our core chilled beef business and other developing businesses.”

Finnerty said ABP’s core chilled business has been unaffected by the horsemeat issue and maintains that Irish beef is “held in the highest regard internationally”.

“As Europe’s largest beef exporter, ABP Food Group will continue to invest in expanding and developing this and the other businesses within the group,” he added.

ABP employs 8,000 staff across 36 facilities in eight countries. Around 2,500 of those are employed in Ireland.