In this file:
∑ Fast food chief says shop customers Ďmisledí
∑ Meat contamination: Analysis: An everyday tale of profit, monopoly and shortcuts
∑ British food standards body launches probe into contamination
Fast food chief says shop customers Ďmisledí
By John Fallon - Irish Examiner
Thursday, January 17, 2013
The owner of the countryís biggest fast food chain said supermarket customers have been misled when buying burgers.
Pat McDonagh, managing director of Supermacís, said they sourced all burgers from the same supplier and could trace its origin, but that supermarkets were cutting corners.
He said horse meat, which has been found in some beef products in supermarkets, did not up there by accident.
"What supermarkets are trying to do is to sell the cheapest product and probably the cheapest cut they can. Even at the best of times if you are buying frozen burgers in the supermarket there is going to be a lot of filler, soya bean or whatever, added to them.
"I think probably the most content of beef is somewhere between 60% and 70%. So really and truly, people are being misled when buying burgers in supermarkets," Mr McDonagh said.
He said Supermacís sourced all of its burgers from Rangeland in Monaghan and could trace the meat.
"It is probably only the retail side of the business that has been affected. Most other sectors of the catering industry and probably all the catering industry would know the source of who they are buying from and the meat processors.
"We have used our own supplier and processor for the last 30 years. We can trace the meat right down to the farm and right down to the cattle or the bullock that is being used in those burgers.
"But when you are in the supermarket and look at the prices of burgers, or four-ounce burgers in the packet, you have to question how they can produce it at that price, because the price of meat is gone extremely high at the minute."
Mr McDonagh said he believed if there was horse meat in burgers, then it was put there deliberately.
"It is surprising that it has gone to this degree and that they have used horse meat in it... That has to be done consciously because you are not going to get 29% of horse meat in a burger by accident...
Meat contamination: Analysis: An everyday tale of profit, monopoly and shortcuts
Felicity Lawrence Guardian
equities.com - Jan 17, 2013
"You get what you pay for" applies to food as much as anything else, and the only surprise about the latest adulteration scandal, in which beefburgers at rock bottom prices turn out to contain horsemeat and traces of pig, is perhaps that they contain meat at all.
The trajectory of the scandal has a familiarity to it too. It began with the announcement on Tuesday evening by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that it had detected other animals in 85% of all beefburger samples it had tested two months previously. Tesco Everyday Value beefburgers topped the adulteration league, being 29% horsemeat, but Lidl, Aldi and others were caught up in it too, with more than a third of all the beefburgers tested containing some horse.
The meat-processing companies from which the dodgy burgers originated include some of the largest in Europe. They supply most of the retail sector. So the Food Standards Agency in the UK and the big supermarkets have begun the frantic process of working out how many other supplies were affected and trying to trace the origin of the horsemeat. Consumers were the last to know, and many will have had a sense of deja vu.
The scandal exposed by the Guardian in 2002 and 2003, when imported pig and beef proteins were detected in UK retail and catering chicken, started with similar attempts to reassure shoppers that there were no safety issues, that amounts detected were by and large "minute", and a reluctance to admit that a large part of the food chain was probably affected. History repeated itself with the Sudan 1 food crisis, when illegal dye was found in a huge proportion of supermarket ready meals.
The European beef-processing industry is, like most other sectors of today's globalised food chain, dominated by a handful of players. One is the Irish-based ABP Group (formerly Anglo Beef Processors), which owns Silvercrest and Dalepak, two of the three companies named by the FSA Ireland as sources of the burgers, the third being Liffey Foods, which also supplies several large retailers.
The other big players in the red meat sector are the Irish-based Dawn Meats, which supplies M&S, whose burgers got a clean bill of health as 100% beef, and the Dutch-based poultry and meat giant Vion, which has not been implicated either. Vion is, however, currently divesting itself of its red meat operations in the UK and further concentration of the industry is likely. If you are a beef farmer wanting to sell your cattle, or a supermarket buyer wanting to source meat, you have little choice of processor.
The mergers and takeovers that created this high concentration of ownership were a response to the concentration of buying power in the hands of a few dominant retailers. The big meat processors have been under constant pressure from supermarkets to keep prices down and to produce special offers for shoppers as food inflation has taken off just as household budgets have shrunk with the recession. This despite the fact that beef prices on the commodity markets have been near historic highs, because the cost of grain needed to feed cattle has also been at record highs, and because the Chinese have been buying up stocks. In a market that functioned properly, prices would adjust to bring supply and demand into balance, but near-monopoly powers have long distorted the UK food market. Inevitably, it looks as though corners have been cut and supermarkets will reap the whirlwind in reputational damage.
Little else is likely to happen. Prosecutions in previous food adulteration scandals have been few and far between; fines, usually for minor labelling breaches rather than for any more serious offence, have been derisory for companies whose turnovers are counted in billions. It is not illegal to sell horsemeat in burgers, only to fail to declare it.
Intense lobbying has ensured that the meat industry is now regulated with a light touch. Meat inspection by the government's Meat Hygiene Service has been steadily deregulated over the past two decades. The MHS vet in a large abattoir cuts a lonely figure and is often in any case absent at night. Current proposals before Europe would make the industry largely self-policing. The Food Standards Agency, meanwhile, was itself eviscerated by the coalition government as part of the Conservatives' "bonfire of the quangos". Its previous chief executive Tim Smith is now Tesco's technical director and dealing with the scandal on the other side of the fence. Trading standards officers, who would be responsible for detecting mislabelled meat have also been cut drastically by the coalition. There were 26% fewer inspections in 2011-12 than in 2009-10 and a 29% drop in prosecutions...
British food standards body launches probe into contamination
By Noel Baker - The Irish Examiner
Thursday, January 17, 2013
The British food safety watchdog has launched an investigation into how beef on sale in the UK and Ireland contained traces of horse and pig DNA.
The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had been in contact with the retailers and producers named in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) survey.
It then met with a food industry representatives to discuss the extent of the potential problem and to ask how the contamination might have occurred.
The move came as the Ulster Society for the Protection of Animals (USPCA) said it was "not surprised" contamination had happened, and the Irish Farmerís Association (IFA) said it would be calling for more regulation to ensure any additives in Irish-marked produce would be fully traceable and ideally also generated in Ireland.
John Bryan, president of the IFA, said tracing systems at farm level were "excellent" but beyond that, increased levels of supervision were needed.
"When you get to further processing and mixing and matching, that is an area we were always highlighting to the department, that we were not happy about," he said.
"Now this has been highlighted we will be insisting on further regulations to monitor any additional elements being added."
Mr Bryan said anything sold as Irish produce needed to be entirely Irish and that "the important thing here is that this is cleared up very quickly".
Last autumn, two men from the North, Kieran Murphy and Laurence McAllister, were convicted of illegally transporting horses to Scotland and were also convicted of transporting cannabis on the same trip.
Their vehicles were stopped and searched en route to an abattoir as part of a probe by the USPCA into the illegal transportation of horses.
There is no suggestion of a criminal link to the cases uncovered this week by the FSAI, but yesterday USPCA spokesman David Wilson said he was "not particularly" surprised that horsemeat was found in burgers.
Last year, USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott was quoted as saying Irish authorities were "doing nothing" to stop the trade in illegal horsemeat and yesterday Mr Wilson said there was a need for greater vigilance.
The president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmersí Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, called on the processing plants involved in the controversy to explain what proportion of their burgers consist of imported product.
Mr Gilmartin claimed: "Suspicions are growing among Irelandís beef farmers that the Irish beef content of burgers is being reduced with a view to keeping prices down."
He added that farmers were concerned that the standards they were meeting were not being matched elsewhere in the processing and production chain.
Elsewhere, the head of food at Grant Thornton, Ciara Jackson, said the integrity of the supply chain was vital.
Ms Jackson added: "Now, more than ever, it is vital the industry collaborates to create a resilient supply chain that can deliver cost efficiencies whilst ensuring Irish produce maintains its international reputation.
"Every second that the horsemeat story runs on Sky News could translate into millions of euros in lost sales."
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Cavan/Monaghan TD, SeŠn Conlan, called for DNA testing of processed meat products to be made mandatory across Europe.
No threat to health
*The likelihood of anyone having an allergic reaction to horse meat is so low there is virtually no threat to human health, a top immunologist has confirmed.
Dr Jean Dunne, a chief medical scientist at the Department of Immunology at St Jamesís Hospital in Dublin, said an allergic reaction to horse meat was very rare.
"It would be an extreme circumstance that there would be allergies to horse meat," she said.
Dr Dunne said she could not recall any body asking for an allergy test for horse meat and said any reaction to horses would typically be due to horse hair.
She said the fact horse meat is typically not consumed here meant allergy tests were unlikely to be requested, but she said people had asked for testing for pork allergies.
While traces of pork were found in some of the sample, Dr Dunne said they were at such a low level it would be highly unlikely to prompt a reaction.
"We eat a lot of pork but it is a rare incident that there would be a pork allergy," she said...