New testing regime

TESTS ON MEAT products will be made publicly available under a new scheme agreed between food authorities and the food industry yesterday.


The decision was taken at a meeting to address how testing can maintain consumer confidence in the accuracy of food labelling; this followed recent discoveries of horse meat in burgers and pork DNA in halal pies and pastries.


Representatives from the foodservice sector were among those who attended an emergency meeting with the Food Standards Authority (FSA) and government ministers on 4th February.


An FSA spokesman told Footprint that the “very large meeting” included caterers, suppliers, producers and the major retailers – and relevant industry groups.


The FSA and the food industry will now agree a standardised sampling and testing system which will meet accredited standards and test to an agreed level of DNA. No timeline has been set.


FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said: “I am pleased that we have been able to agree a way forward to maintain consumer confidence in the food that people eat. We need to move swiftly to get this work under way to reassure consumers.”


Food and farming minister David Heath added: “This is a shared problem, and it needs shared solutions. Food businesses’ agreement to give regular updates on meat testing is a significant move that will give consumers confidence in what they’re buying. It’s now important that the industry starts sharing this information as soon as possible.”


The FSA called the meeting following two cases of contamination in meat products. The first involved horsemeat found in burgers supplied by Irish firm Silvercrest to the likes of Tesco and Burger King. Then, late last week, pork DNA was discovered in halal pies and pasties supplied to prisons through 3663. Having recognised a potential connection between a supplier of halal products for the Ministry of Justice and one of its suppliers, the distributor tested five products and was “shocked” to find pork DNA. 3663 has now revealed the products came from McColgan’s Quality Foods, based in County Tyrone. A spokeswoman told national press that no other customers have been affected.