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Irish food safety boss thought horsemeat in burgers impossible

By Mike Stones+

02-Jan-2014

Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), first thought the contamination of supermarket burgers with horsemeat was impossible but quickly realised the discovery would generate a “tsunami of horse manure”.

Writing in The Observer last week, Reilly noted: “My first reaction was that it was impossible. Somewhere along the line there had been a mistake – or these products had been accidentally contaminated.”

‘Dangerous to humans’

Further tests made clear the contamination was not accidental but the result of food fraud. The priority became to ensure it posed no food safety threat. “We tested the meat for veterinary drugs and found none present in doses high enough for it to be dangerous to humans,” wrote Reilly.

The FSAI then told the food manufacturing companies involved, which notified their supermarket clients of the discovery. “When I looked at the results, I knew the tsunami of horse manure this would cause,” wrote Reilly.

But he did not expect the problem to span Europe – including England, Greece, France and beyond, he wrote.

Reilly believed a food scandal of the same magnitude will not be repeated in his lifetime. “I think the industry has learned its lesson – stringent structures are in place to make sure it can't happen again.”

Read Reilly’s full article here .

Meanwhile, last month a report commissioned by the UK government recommended a new Food Crime Unit to tackle food fraud.

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