- The Guardian, Monday 24 February 2014 12.18 EST
A large consignment of green and rotting meat fit only for petfood was found by Polish food safety investigators investigating the horsemeat scandal at a leading Irish processor – prompting claims it could have ended up in the human food chain.
The meat was found at the giant Silvercrest factory in County Monaghan, Ireland, which produced frozen burgers adulterated with horse for Tesco, Aldi, the Co-op and Burger King. The investigators examined the raw material in early 2013 as part of their official inquiry in to the scandal.
Their report suggests recycling meat deemed “not fit for human consumption” into the human food chain was part of the horsemeat fraud (pdf). But the Irish manufacturer, backed by the Irish government, says it was rotting only because it had been stored for inspection as part of the horsemeat inquiry. They say the quality of the meat had been affected by repeated unpacking and examination as part of the investigation.
The 30-page report by the chief veterinary officer for Poland was compiled after a formal visit by inspectors to Irish plants implicated in the horsemeat scandal. Photographs of the meat showed it was a mixed batch of very poor quality and parts had turned green. Polish investigators say it was destined for burgers but must have been unfit for human consumption all along. “What I saw was clearly unfit for human consumption. It was part of a bigger consignment but I was told the rest of it had already been used,” inspector Katarzyna Piskorz said. “I asked why the factory managers had not noticed the state of it, but was told they had not seen any problem.”
The Polish report explains how inspectors examined eight pallets of meat from a delivery of 22 pallets that had been destined for burger production. The pallets had been detained at Silvercrest in January 2013 by the Irish authorities, who had sealed them in a refrigerated lorry when horse DNA was found in the consignment.
The Polish team insist the Irish authorities had allowed them to examine meat that had not been fully unpacked before their arrival and, but for the discovery of horse, would have been sold as burgers.
When it was fully unpacked, they say they found old meat that was green and rotting or brown and had been deliberately mixed with fresher red meat. The meat pictured in their report is unhygienically wrapped and labelled with official Polish veterinary marks and factory labels that the Polish authorities believe are copies or reused from other consignments.
ABP said the meat and its packaging had deteriorated because it had been stored in a refrigerated lorry for three weeks under quarantine conditions – rather than those for meat intended for the food chain. It said the meat had deteriorated while being moved and unpacked for testing. All the meat arriving at the factory had the correct documentation on arrival and would have been tested before being passed, it said. ABP also insisted none of the burger meat in the consignment had left its plant or entered the food chain.
Burger King admits it has been selling beef burgers and Whoppers containing horsemeat
Fast food chain has faced allegations of orchestrating a cover-up
Fast food chain had earlier assured its products were not involved
Processing company Silvercrest has been using non-approved ingredients
Aldi today admitted burgers sold through UK stores probably contaminated
By Sean Poulter
Burger King has tonight admitted that it has been selling burgers and Whoppers containing horsemeat despite two weeks of denials.
The fast food chain, which has more than 500 UK outlets, had earlier given a series of ‘absolute assurances’ that its products were not involved.
However, new tests have revealed these guarantees were incorrect in a revelation that threatens to destroy the trust of customers.
Burger King has faced allegations of orchestrating a cover-up of its links to the horsemeat scandal in order to give it time to find an alternative supplier. It has admitted selling burgers containing horsemeat
It also raises serious questions about whether the food company, which sells around one million burgers a week in the UK, has any good idea about what goes into its products.
The contaminated burgers were made by the Irish-based processing company, Silvercrest, which is part the ABP Foods Group.
The same company also made tainted burgers for Tesco, Asda and the Co-op, among others.
Burger King has faced allegations of orchestrating a cover-up of its links to the horsemeat scandal in order to give it time to find an alternative supplier.
It is currently shipping in tens of thousands of burgers from suppliers in Germany and Italy in order to meet demand at its UK outlets.
It is known that the management at Silvercrest has been using a series of non-approved ingredients in their burgers for a range of household name brands.
These included meat off-cuts, including horse, that were imported in large frozen blocks from Poland.
The contamination has been going on since at least last May and potentially for up to one year, according to evidence presented to MPs earlier this week.
Tonight Burger King abandoned its earlier denials, saying: ‘Four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA.
Burger King is currently shipping in tens of thousands of burgers from suppliers in Germany and Italy in order to meet demand at its UK outlets
‘Within the last 36 hours, we have established that Silvercrest used a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland.
‘They promised to deliver 100per cent British & Irish beef patties and have not done so. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them.
‘Through our investigation, we have confirmed that this non-approved Polish supplier is the same company identified by the Irish Department of Agriculture as the source of Silvercrest’s contamination issue.’