'The Great Shame about This Incident, Is That It Could Undermine Consumer Confidence in the Entire Food Chain, When the Truth Is That in the UK, We Have One of the Most Tightly-Regulated Food Industries in the World.' SALLY WILLIAMS AND DARREN DEVINE Newsdesk@walesonline.Co.UK WORRIED CONSUMERS 'SHOULD BUY FROM A LOCAL BUTCHER'
Byline: SALLY WILLIAMS AND DARREN DEVINE
A FOOD company at the centre of a scandal over horse meat in beef burgers has vowed to adopt strict DNA testing of its products to prevent a repeat.
The ABP Food Group, one of Europe's biggest suppliers and processors, is being investigated by health and agriculture authorities in the UK and Ireland over the controversy. Two of its subsidiaries, Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, supplied beef burgers with traces of equine DNA to supermarkets, including one product classed as 29% horse.
An ABP spokesman said. "It is vital that the integrity of the supply chain is assured and we are committed to restoring consumer confidence." A third company, Liffey Meats, based in Co Cavan, Ireland, was also found to be supplying products to supermarkets with traces of horse DNA. Suppliers in the Netherlands and Spain have been identified as the possible sources for incorrectly labelled ingredients. The scandal was uncovered through DNA testing of samples by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
The results, verified in laboratories in Germany, showed low levels of horse in beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores in Ireland.
But in one sample from the Tesco Everyday Value range the burgers were almost one third horse meat (29%) compared to beef content.
The retailers have told food safety chiefs they are removing all implicated products from their shelves.
Burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and one UK plant, Dalepak Hambleton.
Silvercrest, a subsidiary of ABP Foods, said it had taken about 10 million burgers out of the marketplace as a result of the alert.
A spokesperson said: "Silvercrest has never purchased or traded in equine products and has launched a full-scale investigation into two continental European third party suppliers who are the suspected source of the product in question."
The Food Standards Agency in Wales said it had been in contact overnight with the retailers and producers named in the FSAI research.
It also met with food industry leaders yesterday to establish how the contamination occurred.
It is up to individual food businesses to demonstrate traceability and to ensure products sold are as described, said a spokesperson.
"Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the relevant legislation where food business operators flout the law," added the spokesperson.
Angela Sawyer, of the Ceredigion-based Food Centre Wales, said she believes the breach of regulations is an exception in an industry where rules on traceability and origins are robust.
Mrs Sawyer, a senior food technologist who has specialised in the meat industry for 16 years, said: "We can have a lot of faith in the system we have got in the UK, but unfortunately when something goes wrong the food industry gets quite a lot of bad press.
"It's not a UK system it's Europe wide - the legislation covers the whole of Europe and we all have the same requirements on us. We're all audited independently by local authorities or the Food Standards Agency.
"When I go out to buy beef burgers I feel quite happy that what I'm buying is what it says in the ingredients list."
Mrs Sawyer, whose organisation provides technical support for those developing new food products in Wales, said budget burgers like those found to be almost one third horse meat generally provide less beef than premium products.
UK regulations say beef burgers must be 62% beef, but for budget products this can drop as low as 47%.
Gren Jones, the director of abattoir firm Conwy Valley Meats in Llanrwst, said consumers concerned about the origins of the meat they buy should use a local butcher.
Mr Jones, 56, whose firm supplies beef to butchers across North and Mid Wales, said: "It's quite important for the customer to ask for traceability - ask the butcher where he's procured his meat. …