The report on ‘Equine DNA and Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation’ which I released on 14 March 2013 sets out a range of actions being taken in relation to this issue at both national and EU level. These include a programme of DNA testing of beef products and testing of horse meat for the presence of phenylbutazone. Meat traders/agents will be required to register as food business operators. Controls relating to horse identification are being strengthened and my Department is taking responsibility for the supervision of all horse abattoirs in Ireland.
The report clearly detailed the outcome of the comprehensive investigation which involved my Department’s special investigation unit and the Garda authorities. Information in relation to activities by traders and other intermediaries in the supply chain outside of the jurisdiction has been passed to Europol and other Member States to facilitate continuing investigations in other Member States. The Irish authorities remain fully open to assisting any other Member State or entity with regard to ongoing investigations in other jurisdictions and will continue to do so in a transparent manner, as has been the practice throughout the equine DNA investigation.
On 16 April results were published of the EU wide testing programme for equine DNA in beef products and phenylbutazone (bute) in horse carcases. The results showed that, across the EU, there were 4,144 tests under the equine DNA programme of which 193 were positive. In Ireland, all of the results of the 50 DNA tests on Irish beef products under the EU programme were negative. In addition there were 7,951 tests reported for equine DNA carried out by food business operators across the EU, of which 110 were positive. Under the Irish national DNA testing regime the results of 2185 DNA tests published by the FSAI to date showed only a small number of positives (32 representing 9 products), all of which were published previously and related to products withdrawn from the market.
In relation to the EU programme for bute testing there were 16 positives from 3,115 tests. In Ireland of the 840 tests carried out on horse carcases for bute, only one was positive. The carcase concerned was destroyed and the case is under investigation.
The EU Commission is also pursuing an action plan over the remainder of 2013 and into 2014 which includes specific actions and measures on the following basic elements: fighting food fraud, testing programmes, horse passports, official controls and origin labelling. It is important that controls in this area are strengthened on a pan European basis, not just at national level, and as stated in the report some of the measures envisaged will require legislative change at EU level. The fact that our control regime here uncovered this problem shows our commitment to maintaining the worldwide reputation of Irish food. Ireland will continue to show leadership on this issue, both nationally and in Europe.