FSAI survey finds horse DNA in some beef burger products

The FSAI analysed 27 beef burger products and found 10 of them (37%) tested positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) tested positive for pig DNA.
The FSAI analysed 27 beef burger products and found 10 of them (37%) tested positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) tested positive for pig DNA.

Retailers withdraw a number of beef burger products from sale after FSAI survey reveals the presence of horse DNA



15 January 2013

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The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published the findings of a targeted study examining the authenticity of a number of beef burger, beef meal and salami products available from retail outlets in Ireland.

The study which, tested for the presence of horse and pig DNA, reveals the presence of horse DNA in some beef burger products. The organisation says this raises concerns in relation to the traceability of meat ingredients and products entering the food chain.

A total of 27 beef burger products were analysed with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA. In addition, 31 beef meal products (cottage pie, beef curry pie, lasagne, etc) were analysed of which 21 were positive for pig DNA and all were negative for horse DNA. All 19 salami products analysed tested negative for horse DNA. Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain.

The beef burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by two processing plants (Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods) in Ireland and one plant (Dalepak Hambleton) in the UK. They were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland. In nine of the ten beef burger samples from these retailers, horse DNA was found at very low levels. However, in one sample from Tesco, the level of horse DNA indicated that horsemeat accounted for approximately 29% relative to the beef content.

In a press statement, the FSAI said it is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the processing plants and retailers involved. The retailers have stated that they are removing all implicated batches from sale today (15 January 2012). In addition, Silvercrest Foods has informed the FSAI that it is withdrawing all products from sale and replacing them with new products.

According to Prof. Alan Reilly, chief executive, FSAI, whilst these findings pose no risk to public health they do raise some concerns. He states: "The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried. Consumers who have purchased any of the implicated products can return them to their retailer."

"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. 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 the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products," concludes Prof. Reilly.

The FSAI and its official agencies carry out a number of surveys and studies each year as part of its proactive monitoring activities. These product surveys provide a snapshot of the status of products on the market at specific time. The legal responsibility for placing safe food on the market lies with the food industry and the FSAI routinely monitors and samples for compliance.



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