QK Meats knew last summer that some products it sourced from Poland contained horse DNA, according to an Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine report.
The failure on the part of QK Meats senior management to inform the department of these findings of positive DNA test results at the time showed “scant regard for the public good” and was a “serious failure of judgement”, detailed the report.
The firm told the department last month that it had imported consignments of Polish labelled beef trimmings and some of these tested positive for equine DNA.
During the investigation, the department established that the company was purchasing raw material from Poland at €400 per tonne less than corresponding beef trimmings available in Ireland.
“It is clear that in a country that is a net exporter of beef products, this competitive pricing aspect of the trade is the primary motivator in utilising imported ingredients in the manufacturing process,” outlined the report.
Firm’s own assessment
QK Meats admitted based on its own risk assessment that it had tested 15 consignments from nine of its 19 different Polish suppliers.
Seven of these tests had shown to be, on a qualitative basis, positive for equine DNA.
QK Meats admitted the first positive test result was on 27 June 2012 and the company contacted the Polish supplier whose representative visited the plant and took back the consignment, according to the report.
Further positive tests results on other consignments of Polish labelled product were obtained in October, November, December 2012 and January 2013, the report asserts.
Birds Eye named the company as the source of horse meat contamination in three of its products earlier this month.
QK Meats had claimed that none of the equine positive raw material entered the food chain, said the report.
Other than suggesting that there were “mumblings” in the trade about suspect Polish raw material, QK Meats did not explain why it was testing for equine DNA since last June or why, having found equine DNA in some products did not test all such products, the report asserts.
Minister expresses concern
In a statement to the Dáil, in the Irish Parliament yesterday (March 14) Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said he was “extremely concerned” at the failure of ABP to maintain oversight of Silvercrest.
“Given the reputational issues for the Irish food industry as a whole I believe the practices by two companies of not respecting customer specifications (in case of Silvercrest) and of knowingly withholding information about problems in the supply chain (in case of QK Cold stores) are totally unacceptable.”
B&F Meats was found to be involved in mislabelling of horsemeat for export to the Czech Republic, said Coveney.
“While the company claims that no fraudulent intent was involved the placing of a false label on a product and the question of instituting legal proceedings in this respect remains under consideration.”
The investigation concluded there was no evidence that Silvercrest and Rangeland Meats deliberately purchased or used horsemeat in production processes or that they were relabelling or tampering with inward consignments.
Ossory Meats suspension
Coveney also cited the suspension of Ossory Meats, a horse abattoir in Offaly, due to issues relating to passport and microchip identifies not matching the marking on the horse.
An investigation, which is ongoing, found 25 irregularities at the site, including horses presented as yearlings when they were actually older.
“This incident is quite extraordinary; particularly the brazenness in attempting to have these animals slaughtered at a time when controls had been enhanced in the plant in question and also when the entire horsemeat saga was receiving such intensive public scrutiny,” said the report.
QK was unavailable for comment as this article was being published.