By Ralph Riegel of the Irish Independent.ie
“This was an imported problem in the Irish food industry and it is important to stress that,”
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney expressed his “deep frustration” that such a food scandal could erupt at the very time Irish food exports were booming.
Mr Coveney was scathing of the management of Silvercrest‘s Ballybay plant in Monaghan which, since horse DNA was found in beef-burger products, has lost €50m-plus contracts from Tesco, Burger King, Asda, The Co-op and Aldi.
“This was an imported problem in the Irish food industry and it is important to stress that,” Mr Coveney added.
Asked about funds for the food promotion campaign, Mr Coveney said: “An Bord Bia was the only agency linked to my department that got an increase in funding in the recent Budget, despite all the cutbacks in expenditure that we have to make.
“It has a big job to do to build on the momentum and potential that is clearly there in the Irish agri-food sector.”
More than 200,000 people are employed in the agri-food sector, with 60pc of exporting firms operating in the sector. Beef exports have soared by 28pc in value since 2010.
Marketing data so far has suggested that the horse-meat crisis has been contained and there will be no major fallout for the wider beef sector.
UK media outlets have given credit to Ireland’s food safety authorities for having first detected and then highlighted the problem.
Desperate efforts are now under way to salvage the lost burger contracts and ensure they are taken up by other Irish suppliers.
Mr Coveney said he shared the concerns of the 140 Ballybay workers over their jobs.
He said the plant, which is capable of producing 200 million burgers a year, is a vital part of Ireland’s agri-food infrastructure.
Officials from the Silvercrest plant are expected to be called before an Oireachtas committee to be quizzed about the controversy, chairman Andrew Doyle TD said.
New test results from Poland are due today on the source of the horse meat – although previous tests in that country proved negative.
Meanwhile, a food processor in Strabane, Co Tyrone has been named as the company which supplied halal meat with traces of pork to prisons in the UK.
McColgan Quality Foods was found to be the source of what is described as “the very small number of Halal savoury beef pastry products” that were found to contain pork DNA supplied to prisons even though the company is a certified halal supplier.
Under Islamic law, the consumption of pork is strictly prohibited.
However, a spokesperson for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last night insisted that there is no concern that any pork-containing halal products were being distributed south of the border by McColgan or other suppliers.
The FSA ordered the meeting last week following a spate of mis-labelled or contaminated food products reaching the public.
– Ralph Riegel
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- Food body reassures on halal meat (bbc.co.uk)
- No prosecutions here in horse-meat scandal (independent.ie)
- Halal meat pies and pastries found to contain pork DNA (thetimes.co.uk)
- Horse DNA: Burger King Dumps Irish Supplier (news.sky.com)
- Video: Agriculture officials knew about horse meat for weeks (independent.ie)
- Horsemeat in burgers traced to Polish suppliers, say authorities (guardian.co.uk)