Currently the finger of blame is being pointed towards European-based ingredients suppliers, which have yet to be named by the companies implicated in the investigation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Both Liffey Meats and the two ABP-owned businesses, Silvercrest Foods and Dalepak Hambleton, have identified third-party suppliers as the source of the equine DNA which was uncovered in burgers on sale across a range of retail outlets.
The main thrust of the investigation for ABP is into the burger from Tesco, which was found to contain 29% horse meat. A source close to the company said: “We’re shocked by that and we’re at a loss to explain why that result is the way it is. Our investigations are centred around meat and meat products from two suppliers, and technical auditors have been sent into those companies.”
Liffey Meats played down the quantities of DNA discovered in its products, claiming the results showed only trace amounts of equine DNA. The company added: “Liffey Meats has never produced, purchased or traded any equine products. We do import some raw ingredients as part of our manufacturing process. As part of its analysis, FSAI identified traces of equine DNA in some of those raw ingredients. We now believe that such imported raw ingredients were the ultimate source of the DNA traces found in some of our products.”
Meanwhile, UK meat leaders are expressing concern over the potential reputational damage the scandal will have caused to the wider meat industry and the damage to Tesco’s brand.
Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said: “This episode – rare and unusual though it is – undermines consumer confidence and trust in the meat industry, and causes reputational damage to it. We must get to the bottom of what went wrong and why, and how such an incident can be prevented in the future. Our customers and consumers must be able to put their trust in our industry.”
So far the majority of UK consumer reaction to the incident appears to be mainly based around horse-based puns on social media sites.