Within the report, Coveney criticised some beef companies for their shortcomings, which were revealed during the government's investigation into the horsemeat issue.
It was also revealed that the Irish meat supplier to Birds Eye knew, last summer, that some of its Polish-sourced products contained horsemeat. According to the report, which is entitled 'Equine DNA and Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation', QK Meats had contacted the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last month, telling the organisation that several tests were positive for horse DNA.
The first positive result for horse DNA at QK was on 27 June last summer, however, the company said it had contacted its Polish supplier, which took the meat back. Meanwhile, it was also revealed that further tests for horse DNA, from the same supplier, were positive from October to December last year and into January this year.
Despite several positive tests for horsemeat, QK claimed that no horse DNA positive meat entered the food chain.
In a statement published on the FSAI website yesterday, Coveney said the country’s reputation as a food producer relied on the participants in the food supply chain fulfilling their responsibility to produce safe and quality foods.
Coveney said: "Two months ago to the day (14 January) my department was first informed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) of its finding of 29% equine DNA in a single beef burger." He said the burger was sold in Tesco and manufactured by the Silvercrest plant in Co Monaghan.
After horse DNA was found, an immediate investigation was launched, Coveney explained. And disclosure of the information led other authorities to examine the issue in their domain. "It transpired that what had been uncovered was a pan- European problem of fraudulent mislabelling of certain beef products," he said.
The result of pan-European investigations led to the horsemeat issue overreaching the European Union and becoming a global problem that affected other larger global companies and international food brands, he said.
Of Polish Origin
Furthermore, Coveney said he wished to highlight a number of points, he said that the "equine DNA found in consignments of beef was labelled to be of Polish origin". He added that the investigation found no evidence of adulteration with horsemeat of such consignments in Ireland. However, FSAI’s enquiries brought about clear concerns over the activities of traders/intermediaries "operating" outside the State.
Coveney said the FSAI, in conjunction with his department, had agreed a national protocol with the meat processing, retail and catering trade for DNA testing of beef products in Ireland. "Under this protocol some 957 tests have already been undertaken, with 928 samples found to be negative and 29 samples representing seven products found to be positive for horse DNA. All the positive results had been published previously and these products were withdrawn from the market," he added.