The background to the recent ‘horseburger’ scandal was given to the AEJ at a lunch in the Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club on Friday, April 5.
In a very interesting and insightful address, Professor Alan Reilly, CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) outlined how they were taken aback when one burger, when tested, recorded 29% horse DNA. The Authority had spent two months doing tests in two laboratories in Germany and Ireland to confirm the discovery. Eventually, as more and more people got to know about it, the story was leaked to the Irish Daily Mail and literally took off from there.
He said the Authority had been taken aback at the level of media interest. There were 772 media enquires between January 15th and March 15th, more than would be received in a full year previously.
Professor Reilly outlined how easy it is to replace horsemeat in beef supplies as the frozen packs of beef are simply wrapped in plastic sheeting. He said the going price for beef was about ?4,500 per tonne, ?2,500 for pork but only ?700 to ?900 for horsemeat. Huge profits could clearly be made.
He also outlined the lack of interest from the European Commission when there was no food safety risk factor. A clear gap was discovered in the monitoring system in relation to the detection of food fraud.
He said the UK was particularly taken aback at their failure to detect it and the CEO of Iceland, Malcolm Walker, had to apologise for dismissing the discovery as some sort of Irish joke.