Frozen burgers removed from NI hospitals

Frozen burgers removed from NI hospitals

A range of frozen beef burgers were taken off the menu in hospitals across Northern Ireland after they were found to contain traces of horse DNA.

The burgers, which were produced by Rangeland Foods in the Republic of Ireland, have been taken out of the food supply system.

"We have acted immediately to remove one range of beef burger from health and social care facilities, this was on the advice of the FSA and the food supplier," said a health department spokesperson.

"We will remain vigilant as the results of further testing become available and ensure that we can maintain confidence in the food that our Trusts provide to patients and clients."

Rangeland is one of seven suppliers of frozen foods.

A Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) statement said: "The FSAI has been informed by Rangeland Foods that it is withdrawing some batches of frozen burger products from customers which contained beef supplied from Poland and have been found to contain equine DNA between 5% and 30% relative to bovine DNA.

"These burgers have been supplied to the catering and wholesale sectors and are therefore not on sale directly to the consumer."

A Rangeland spokeswoman said the affected meat from the EU was processed in September.

Rangeland has implemented a comprehensive DNA assessment of beef intake and products, and tests every batch before release to the food chain, for any trace of equine DNA.

Rangeland Foods

It comes as two Executive ministers met with Food Standard Agency officials at Loughry College in Cookstown on Friday.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill called a special meeting which only Education Minister John O'Dowd attended.

On Thursday, education boards withdrew frozen burgers from schools in Northern Ireland as a precautionary step.

"I want to show leadership on this issue because it is so important we address the issue of public confidence. The other ministers who did not turn up will have to account for themselves," Ms O'Neill said.

Meanwhile Glyn Roberts, chair of the NI Independent Retail Trade Association, has called for the Agriculture Minister to convene a round table meeting with retailers, processors, suppliers and farmers as soon as possible "to hammer out this issue".

"If we're going to solve the problem, we've got to have everybody round the table working at an agreed solution," he said.

Also on Friday farmers met with food and business bodies to try to come up with a way forward that will boost consumer confidence in the meat industry.

Harry Sinclair, of the Ulster Farmers' Union, said they have come through a very difficult year, but added that the horsemeat crisis could provide an opportunity to shorten the food chain.

Farmers are feeling very, very despondent out there at the moment. They feel the food chain is letting them down.

Harry Sinclair, UFU

Ian Stevenson, chief executive of the Livestock and Meat Commission, said they are encouraging people to look out for the Farm Quality Assurance logo.

"NI produce, we can stand over it - it has been produced on farms, processed under a whole series of rigorous assurance and integrity schemes," he said.

Meanwhile the FSA revealed on Friday that it carried out tests on 2,501 products. While 2,472 came back negative, 29 samples contained more than 1% of horsemeat.

The meat was also tested for bute, the veterinary drug Phenylbutazone which is potentially harmful to humans, but all so far have returned negative results.

But Chief Executive Catherine Brown warned the tests do not reveal the full picture.

"We expect industry to continue to supply us with regular updates on their testing regime," she said.

The FSA believe meat produce that contains more than 1% horsemeat would be "due to either gross incompetence or deliberate fraud; it's not going to be accidental".

The agency said at least 950 tests are still in progress, with more expected in the coming weeks, and they are working with trade bodies to collate the results as quickly as possible.

© UTV

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