Iceland boss apologises for “the Irish” remark
Iceland apologises for comments made on the BBC's Panorama programme and praises the FSAI for "bringing the entry of horsemeat to the human food chain to public notice."
20 February 2013
The boss of frozen food chain Iceland is "deeply sorry for any offence caused," after making a comment about "the Irish" during a high-profile TV interview.
Speaking on BBC’s Panorama programme, CEO Malcolm Walker was asked to explain why Iceland burgers had passed British tests for horse DNA but failed the Irish tests. He answered: "Well, that’s the Irish, isn’t it?"
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) responded, stating that any attempt to discredit the DNA tests conducted on its behalf would be disingenuous, dishonest and untruthful.
Chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said: "It is unprofessional that a vested interest would seek to undermine our position with misinformation and speculation. Science underpins all policies and actions undertaken by the FSAI."
Two internationally recognised laboratories, Identigen in Dublin and Eurofins Laboratories in Germany, have been used by the FSAI to test for equine DNA.
While Identigen’s test method is not an accredited method, the FSAI said the same results from the same set of samples were received from the accredited German lab. The UK Food Standards Agency also uses the Eurofins lab.
Following the programme, which led to Walker’s remarks being broadly criticised on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter – not least by Irish customers – the retailer issued an apologetic press statement.
"Iceland and our CEO Malcolm Walker are deeply sorry for any offence caused by his TV interview," the group said. "His comments were not intended to be disrespectful to the Irish people, including our many Irish customers, colleagues and suppliers, or to the Irish food safety authorities…We hold all of these in the very highest regard."
Iceland also expressed its "gratitude to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland for bringing the entry of horsemeat to the human food chain to public notice."
The retailer said it accepted "that the FSAI obtained valid test results from an accredited laboratory using a methodology that is commonly used in the burger industry elsewhere in the world, even though the head of the UK Food Standards Authority (FSA) informed the House of Commons Committee investigating this matter that it was "not an accredited test" in the UK."
Iceland, which was found by the FSAI to be selling burgers which contained 0.1% equine DNA, said that the group and its suppliers had since undertaken 84 tests of finished Iceland burgers and 54 tests on raw material samples, all of which have proved negative for equine DNA.