B&F Meats, which has processing plants in Thomastown and Carrick-on-Suir, has this evening become the latest company to be embroiled in the horse meat scandal, writes Sam Matthews.
Operations have been suspended at the company’s Carrick-on-Suir facility, as the Department of Agriculture’s Special Investigation Unit carries out a forensic examination with assistance from the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. It has emerged that the plant , which debones beef and horsemeat, was dispatching horsemeat to a customer in the Czech Republic via a UK-based trader using a label in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef.
The Department has now suspended all operations at the plant with immediate effect. Officers of the SIU this afternoon entered the plant to carry out a full investigation.
This involves forensic examination of electronic data and records associated with consignments of beef products. It also involves detailed inspections of certain food business operators including traders, transporters, processers and exporters.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney issued a statement shortly after 4pm today.
“I am seriously concerned about this development and the Gardai have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my Department,” he said.
“The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.”
The minister also announced new measures to step up the detection of food fraud.
As part of the EU-wide coordinated control plan, 50 additional food samples will be checked for horse DNA during March in Ireland. These include products marketed or labelled as containing beef as a major ingredient such as minced meat, meat products and meat preparations.
The minister said that this problem, first uncovered in Ireland, has spread across the EU and for this reason he had already convened a meeting of other Ministers and the Commission last week in Brussels which led to the establishment of an EU wide testing programme. Acting in his role as Chairman of the Council, he has arranged to hold a special debate on this matter under the Irish Presidency at next Monday’s Council of Agriculture and Fisheries meeting.
In addition to the EU programme, officials from the Department together with the FSAI have met with representatives from the meat processing, retailing and catering sectors and agreed a protocol for DNA testing of beef products to check for adulteration with horse meat. The following categories of food are being tested – pre-packaged beef products on sale to the final consumer or to mass caterers, beef products offered for sale without pre-packaging to consumers or to mass caterers and meat ingredients used in processed beef products. The results will be made known to the public.