Police join horsemeat burger investigation

Police have joined in the investigation into the horsemeat scandal after meat in another food plant labelled as beef was found to contain up to 75% horsemeat.

Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney called in the police to investigate claims of fraudulent activity in the food chain after meat in a second Irish beefburger producer was found to contain suspect Polish offcuts of horsemeat.

Mr Coveney said DNA testing on samples of burgers labelled as beef at Rangeland Foods, based in County Monaghan, showed they contained up to three-quarters horsemeat.

Rangeland describes itself as the “number one producer of beefburgers” to the food service industry, with a “growing number of customers in the UK” and other countries in continental Europe. Its suppliers include pubs and restaurants, event catering, industrial catering and fast food restaurant markets.

In a statement released on Monday (4 February), Rangeland said it had “temporarily suspended production of beef following the interception of beef from Poland that tested positive for equine DNA”.

The consignment was received in early January and did not go into production, said the company, which insisted that 90% of its beef is of Irish origin. Rangeland, which was established in 1982, employs 80 staff and has an annual turnover of €18m (£15.4m).

Last month, food production at the Silvercrest food processing plant in County Monaghan, run by Irish-owned ABP food group, was suspended after burgers sold to food companies were found to contain horsemeat.

Meat used in burgers traced back to Poland and supplied by Silvercrest to Tesco was found to contain 29% horse DNA. Lidl, Aldi, Iceland, Asda and fast food giant Burger King have all cancelled their contracts with Silvercrest.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is also investigating how horsemeat found its way into a frozen meat cold store at Freeza Meats in Northern Ireland.

Of the 12 samples tested from the suspect consignment, two tested positive for about 80% horsemeat. The FSA said the meat, which has not entered the food chain, was potentially linked to the Silvercrest factory.

On Sunday (3 February), it emerged that McColgan Quality Foods, a food producer in Northern Ireland, has been supplying prisons in England and Wales with halal products found to contain traces of pork DNA.

Meanwhile, the meat industry has agreed to introduce a programme of DNA testing to provide a clearer picture of standards in the food chain.

The decision to introduce a testing system was agreed at a meeting on Monday (4 February) between FSA representatives, major food businesses and suppliers and farm minister David Heath.

The 10 major supermarkets have agreed to release details to the public of DNA testing of meat to maintain consumer confidence in food standards.

Mr Heath said: “This is a shared problem and it needs shared solutions.

“Food businesses’ agreement to give regular updates on meat testing is a significant move that will give consumers confidence in what they’re buying. It’s now important that the industry starts sharing this information as soon as possible.”

The FSA and the food industry will agree a standardised sampling and testing system that will meet accredited standards and test to an agreed level of DNA.

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