THE Naas company at the centre of a food quality controversy has apologised to the Department of Agriculture for delaying informing it of problems with horse meat in its beef products, but it said it believed that it had acted in good faith in dealing with the issue as it arose.
In the Dail last week, Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, criticised QK Meats for what he termed an “inexcusable delay” in not notifying his Department of its discovery of horse DNA in imported meat, although it had not broken any laws.
Speaking on the release of an official report into the horse meat problem, the Minister said QK Meats, part of the Queally family food empire, had knowingly withheld information on problems in the supply chain.
The Department’s report found that in June 2012, QK Meats had discovered horse DNA in beef trimmings imported from Poland. Horse meat was found in seven out of nine consignments DNA-tested between June 2012 and January 2013.
QK It returned some of these consignments and got its money back from the Polish company that supplied them, while others were later impounded by the Department of Agriculture.
But the company continued to source raw materials from Poland despite problems in the chain.
Birds Eye had named QK Meats as the source of horse meat contamination in three of its frozen meat products.
In a statement issued on 15 March, QK Meats said it has been “cooperating closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in its investigation into the horse meat issue.”
It said it continued “ to assist the Department in every way possible, since first bringing the matter to their attention on 5 February when we shared our test results with them for the first time.”
QK Meats said it has “never knowingly” incorporated horse meat into any of its beef products. It said in a statement on Friday: “QK Meats during 2012 had purchased a number of beef consignments from fully approved EU licensed suppliers in Poland. Following concern about a batch of product in June 2012, we introduced a system of testing.
“Any product that tested positive was immediately isolated and either returned to the supplier or detained in quarantine at our premises. QK Meats can categorically state that it did not introduce any product that tested positive into the food chain.
The company continued: “The actions we took at the time, we believed were correct, in compliance with our regulatory obligations and fully protected the public interest by ensuring the product did not enter the food chain.
“We believe that we acted in good faith in dealing with the matters as they arose.
“The Minister has confirmed [today] that QK Meats has broken no laws. As events subsequently transpired however, it is now clear that our actions fell short, specifically in not contacting the Department sooner. “We have apologized to the Department for this, deeply regret it and any breach of trust which it has caused given our commitment to food quality and safety.
“We have launched a full investigation into all events surrounding the issue. We will take every step possible to restore confidence in the robustness of our systems and procedures.”