Dutch firm allegedly sold Irish horse meat as beef

Updated: Friday, 15 Feb 2013 23:11

Dutch prosecutors say food safety experts have raided a meat processing plant as part of a criminal investigation into horse meat fraud.

Prosecutors said the company in North Brabant province is believed to have processed horse meat from the Netherlands and Ireland, and mixed it with beef before selling the mixture as "pure" beef.

Prosecutors said in a statement the company is suspected of "fraud and money laundering".

The company was not named, in line with Dutch privacy laws.

Food safety investigators raided business premises and a home, seized documents and took samples of meat for analysis.

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The Dutch Food Safety Authority announced yesterday it has launched a large-scale investigation throughout the food chain, from slaughterhouses to supermarkets, as part of Europe-wide efforts to trace fraudulently traded horse meat.

Earlier today, officials and experts from 27 member states formally approved an EU Commission proposal to test thousands of beef products and samples from slaughterhouses for horse meat.

The plan envisages 2,500 products being tested for horse DNA, as well as 4,000 samples from abattoirs across the EU.

The number of tests in each country is likely to be carried out on a proportional basis.

The experts were meeting in Brussels under the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

The committee was made up of national food and veterinary experts.

Robert Doyle, a senior official at the Department of Agriculture, and Brian Kilgallen, the agriculture attaché at Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU, attended the meeting.

Horse meat found in NI hospital burgers

Burgers containing horse meat have been supplied to hospitals in Northern Ireland.

David Bingham from the health service's Business Services Organisation, which provides meat for the health trusts, said a range from a company in the Republic of Ireland had been withdrawn.

"We have acted immediately; as soon as we got information there may be a confidence issue we withdrew the product," he said.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said any burgers served in HSE-run hospitals are handmade by catering staff and are not bought in pre-prepared from suppliers.

As a result, she said, any risk of contamination with horse meat is very low.

A spokesperson for the Food Safety Authority said they are not aware of any hospitals in Ireland which have been serving burgers or beef products at risk of contamination with horse meat.

Irish company finds horse DNA in burgers

Irish catering company Compass says it has discovered horse DNA in burgers that it provided to "a small number of sites" in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

The level of horse meat found in the burgers is between 5% and 30%.

Compass Catering says the total number of its sites which received the burgers is 13 in the Republic and 27 in Northern Ireland.

The majority, the company says, are private offices. Two of the sites were secondary schools in Northern Ireland.

None are hospitals or major sporting venues. The product concerned is the 4oz Rangeburger. Compass says it has no idea how recently the product had been produced.

Compass has withdrawn all of the products and says they came from a supplier who had bought them from the Monaghan-based Rangeland Foods company.

In a statement, Compass said it had notified all of its affected customers and describes the situation as "totally unacceptable".

On its website, Compass describes itself as providing "the widest portfolio of foodservice solutions in the world".

Greencore supplied sauce to Asda

Greencore has confirmed it supplied a beef bolognese sauce to Asda that has been withdrawn from sale by the British supermarket chain after an initial test suggested it contained horse DNA.

Greencore said it was awaiting test results to quantify how much horse DNA was in the sauce.

It said the meat used was supplied by ABP Foods in Co Tipperary.

In a statement, ABP confirmed it is a supplier to Greencore, but said it never knowingly bought or processed horse meat.

ABP also said that in the past few weeks the company has carried out hundreds of tests on fresh beef and to date they have all tested negative for equine DNA.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there was no conflict of interest in relation to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney's brother's involvement in Greencore.

Mr Kenny said that in all his actions Minister Coveney had been acting with the objective of dealing with what has become a pan-European problem, in a manner that is swift, effective and comprehensive.

French wholesaler denies fraud

Elsewhere, a French wholesaler involved in the controversy has denied any fraud.

Spanghero Chief Executive Barthelemy Aguerre said he has proof that his company is innocent of any wrongdoing.

He told RTL radio that his company in southern France did receive a lot of horse meat along with beef, but said "we didn't touch" it.

Mr Aguerre did not provide details or specify whether he reported the horse meat delivery.

French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said yesterday that it appeared fraudulent meat sales over several months reached across 13 countries and 28 companies.

Mr Hamon pointed to Spanghero as a major culprit, but said there was plenty of blame to go around.

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