Horse DNA fears prompt burger recall

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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DUBLIN — ABP Food Group, parent company to Silvercrest Foods, recalled 10 million frozen hamburgers that were distributed to supermarkets across the UK. The company announced the recall after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said the agency found traces of horse meat in a batch of beef supermarket burgers in Ireland. Silvercrest Foods is the second-largest beef processor in Ireland.

“ABP takes this matter extremely seriously and apologizes for the understandable concern this issue has caused,” the company said in a statement on its web site.

“ABP Food Group companies have never knowingly bought, handled or supplied equine meat products and we acknowledge the understandable concern created as a result of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s DNA frozen beef burger test results.

“This issue only affects frozen beef burgers supplied by Silvercrest Foods and Dalepak Hambleton, and while there is no food safety issue, a full withdrawal was implemented.”

FSAI found that a total of 10 of the 27 products (37 percent) analyzed tested positive for horse DNA and 23 (85 percent) tested positive for pig DNA. The agency also analyzed 31 beef meal products (cottage pie, beef curry pie, lasagna, etc.) and found that 21 tested positive for pig DNA but all were negative for horse DNA. Traces of horse DNA also were found in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain, according to FSAI.

The agency said that the presence of pig and horse DNA in beef posed no threat to public health, but the findings do raise questions about the integrity of the country's supply chain.

“Whilst, there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horsemeat in their production process,” said Prof. Alan Reilly, chief executive, FSAI. “In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger. Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.

“We are working with the meat processing plants and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products,” he added.

ABP Food Group, parent company to Silvercrest Foods, apologized for the incident and announced that the company will begin a new testing protocol for all meat products that will include DNA testing.

“We are shocked by the result of these tests, and are currently at a loss to explain why one test showed 29 percent equine DNA,” the company said.

“Current investigations are centered on beef products which originated from two suppliers, and we have today dispatched auditors to their sites to conduct unannounced spot checks. We are conducting our own DNA tests on a wide number of samples and expect the results in the coming days.

“While extensive and thorough safety checks are conducted on all meat products, the industry does not routinely DNA test meat products for species. As a result of this incident we are implementing a new testing regime for meat products which will include DNA analysis.”

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