Low cost 'drove' horsemeat crisis

Published Monday, 18 February 2013
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The retail food industry is hoping to repair its battered image after 16 countries were involved in the horsemeat scandal.

Low cost 'drove' horsemeat crisis
Tests revealed horse DNA was found in beef produce. (© Pacemaker)

Consumer confidence nosedived when traces of horse DNA was found in burgers, ready meals, and foods supplied to schools and hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Last week tests on more than 2,500 beef products found 29 contained more than 1% horsemeat - that includes Co-op frozen quarter pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagne, Rangeland's catering burger products, and Tesco value frozen burgers and value spaghetti bolognese.

Five weeks after the first equine traces were identified in food, authorities in Northern Ireland are holding high level meetings to address issues within the food chain.

Chris Elliott, Professor of Food Safety, said the scale of the scandal could never have been predicted. He believes it was triggered by both complex supply chains and the demand for low cost meat.

"We've had a breakdown in the integrity of our food supply chain. I think that's come as a shock to many people, that it could happen," he explained.

The drive has been to keep prices down at all costs, and it seems that the quality and the integrity of what we eat have been compromised as a result... Hopefully we've seen the worst of it now.

Prof Chris Elliott

It seems other countries have borne the brunt of the public's concern about the quality of their meat, with Northern Ireland's reputation still intact.

The Agriculture Minister, Michelle O'Neill is urging people to buy local meat and look for the mark of Farm Quality Assurance.

"I can give assurance over local produce because that's what I'm responsible for and I'll stand over it," she told MLAs on Monday.

"The local produce is safe, it's traceable, it's transparent, and it's there for all to see. If there's a farm quality assured stamp on it, it's safe, it can be stood over.

"I can't stand over processed food, I'm not responsible for processed food," she added.

The Department of Agriculture, Food Standards Authority, Department of Environment and other local authorities all have their parts to play in dealing with the ongoing crisis.

But Prof Elliott believes more must be done to ensure a cohesive front to address the horsemeat issue, and any others that may arise in the future. He said Northern Ireland is still "trying to catch up" with the scandal.

"That's because we've so many different government departments and agencies involved in trying to sort out the mess that we are involved in," he explained.

"We should really think about getting a joined-up government in relation to food."

  • 2013
    16 January 2013
    Burgers with equine DNA traced to Silvercrest Foods & Liffey Meats in Republic.
  • 16 January 2013
    10m burgers taken off the shelves by Tesco, Lidl, Iceland & Dunnes Stores.
  • 17 January 2013
    ABP Food Group suspends work at its Silvercrest Foods plant.
  • 17 January 2013
    Sainsbury's, Asda & Co-op withdraw some frozen products as precaution.
  • 23 January 2013
    Burger King drops ABP Food Group as a supplier.
  • 25 January 2013
    Silvercrest dropped as a supplier by Tesco.
  • 30 January 2013
    Authorities in Republic believe Poland to be source of contamination.
  • 04 February 2013
    75% equine DNA found in raw ingredients at Rangeland Foods, Co Monaghan.
  • 04 February 2013
    The Republic’s Department of Agriculture calls in police.
  • 04 February 2013
    ABP Food Group estimated to have lost €45m in contracts.
  • 05 February 2013
    McAdams meat held at Freeza Meats, Newry found to contain 80% horse.
  • 05 February 2013
    Freeza Meats tell UTV they face ruin over the crisis.
  • 06 February 2013
    Tesco remove frozen meals produced by French company Comigel.
  • Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:14 AM
    Some Findus UK beef lasagnes, made by Comigel, found to contain up to 100% horse.
  • Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:15 AM
    Authorities believe "criminal activity" to blame & order beef testing.
  • Friday, 08 February 2013 12:16 AM
    Tests on Freeza Meat burgers clear. Company feels vindicated.
  • Friday, 08 February 2013 12:17 AM
    Aldi confirms two of its ready meal ranges found to contain up to 100% horse meat.
  • Monday, 11 February 2013 12:18 AM
    Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says legal action will be taken in Europe.
  • Monday, 11 February 2013 12:19 AM
    UFU says farmers in Northern Ireland feel let down by the horsemeat scandal.
  • Wednesday, 13 February 2013 12:20 AM
    EU ministers agree to random DNA testing & testing for horse drug bute.
  • Thursday, 14 February 2013 12:21 AM
    Burgers removed from all schools in NI after horse DNA found in supply chain.
  • Friday, 15 February 2013 12:22 AM
    Burgers removed from NI hospitals due to traces of horse DNA found.
  • Friday, 15 February 2013 12:23 AM
    Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill holds meeting with NI Executive ministers.
  • Thursday, 21 February 2013 12:24 AM
    Horse DNA found in burgers supplied to two NI agri college campuses.
  • Monday, 25 February 2013 12:25 AM
    IKEA withdraws batch of meatballs after horsemeat is found.
Horsemeat scandal
© UTV News
Comments Comments
4 Comments
bobby in greenisland wrote (521 days ago):
I have yet to hear of a company complaining about the price they paid for beef and supplied with horse which is a fraction of the price. Is the silence knowledge or profit margin.
Barry in Broughshane wrote (521 days ago):
It is time people started shopping in their local butchers shops. Your local butcher can trace every piece of meat in their counter, maybe slightly more expensive but you know what your getting, and your money is supporting your local shops and farmers.
Naive in Dorset in Real World wrote (521 days ago):
Hello, Mr Supermarket.. this is your food supplier, look it's like this, I can't supply at this cheap cost so I'll be putting in a price increase, is this ok... hello?.. hello? (#dead phone sound..)
Patrick in Dorset wrote (522 days ago):
I don't accept the excuse that driving down prices has caused the use of horsemeat in beef products. If the companies using this excuse had any business ethics they would tell their customer that they couldn't produce the beef product at such a low price. Furthermore, the problem was discovered in Ireland a few weeks ago and now it appears to be the practice all over Europe. I don’t believe that it wasn’t widely known within the industry all along.
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