Horse DNA found in beef in 3 Polish plants


Horse DNA has been discovered in three out of 121 meat samples from three meat processing plants investigated by Polish veterinarian authorities, top investigator Mr. Janusz Związek revealed late Wednesday evening in a statement released on the Veterinarian Inspectorate's website.


The three plants, which produce ready-made meat products, have not yet been named. They are located in the central Poland provinces of Mazowieckie and Łódz provinces and in the north-east province of Warmińsko-Mazurskie. Prosecutors have been informed and requested to initiate criminal proceedings.

Another 80 samples are now being analysed, according to Mr. Ziązek, in addition to the quantity of horse in the meat products.

Mr. Związek told Polish Radio Thursday morning

"It was meat ordered from other firms, they had not disassembled the beef at these locations. At the moment we are starting to check the companies who supplied those batches of meat."

 He added that  "among the suppliers being investigated are Polish  firms and definitely one from Holland."

Serious discrepancies were found in one of the firm's documentation records, while that same company was found to have had imported over 870 tonnes of horse meat from Romania.

Foreign export manager for the Romanian company Doly-com, accused by French firm Spanghero of having supplied them with beef tainted with horse-meat, said "we supply huge amounts of equine product to one Polish trader but I can't give any names.

Public veterinarian inspectors found in September of last year that  44% of the red meat inspected in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie region was found to contain cheap filler additives, including starch and raw soya.

At the time, the provincial Inspector Ryszard Piórkowski claimed

"the scale of the hidden falsifications was disturbing. Those in the meat business are feeling the economic crisis and are seeking ways to reduce their costs to remain competitive.”

The five firms guilty of mislabelling were merely recommended to tighten up ship and apart from small fines,  got off scot free.

Irish, Italian, German and most recently Czech authorities have all pointed the finger at Poland as being a source of tainted beef product.

Today's findings are hugely embarrassing for the Polish political, veterinarian and food industry authorities and the first confirmation of Polish firms culpability since the affair erupted in January.

President of the Polish Meat Union Mr. Witold Choinski had recently told Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper

"I suspect that somebody wanted to earn by buying cheap elements of horse meat and mixing them with beef. But the information I have, officially and unofficialy, is that Polish firms have nothing in common with the Irish affair. Horse meat hidden in burgers did not come from Poland. This is about competition with Polish food. A dishonest fight.”


Mr. Choinski backtracked and revealed on Thursday how the affair was damaging Polish beef exports. He told Polish Radio that "meat exports have already declined by 30 percent this year" and that plants have been cutting costs by adding cheap horse trimmings to bovine product.

The minister of Agriculture Mr. Stanislaw Kalemba and the Deputy Director of the Polish Veterinarian Inspectorate, Dr. Jaroslaw Naze, appearing on Prime Time Investigates recently attacked the manner in which Irish and British authorities made premature claims that Poland was to blame for supplying contaminated beef.

The Polish Veterinarian Inspectorate has now requested the inclusion of the State's 'Food Quality Authority' (GHJRAS) and 'Consumer and Competition Defence Agency' (UOKK) to partake in the investigation.

The Internal Security Agency(ABW) launched an investigation over two weeks ago into alleged mafia involvement and money laundering ties to the horse-meat affair but have yet to report any information.

Dutch-owned FVZ Deli Meat, located in the Śląsk region of southern Poland, was accused earlier this week by Czech firm Bidvest meat distributors director Mr. Bohumil Volf that "they put horse meat in our beef products.”

Mr. Ireneusz Pawełek from the Sales Department of FVZ Deli Meat told this journalist, however, that his firm "never knowingly handled horse meat" and claimed "one of our suppliers are the source of the problem." He confirmed both Food Service and Mipol Poland were clients. Both firms have been under the spotlight since Irish authorities and meat industry players accused them of supplying the mislabelled or tainted product.

 Mr. Pawelek's firm is part of the larger VION Food Group which has its headquarters Eindhoven, the Netherlands. It had a turnover of 9.5 bn in 2011, employing 26,425 employees by the end of the same year. It's Warsaw office director Mr. Willem Roskam was not available to comment.

On Wednesday Polish veterinarian authorities seized three tonnes of meat from a processing plant in the Polish province of Silesia. The results of tests on these products have also yet to be released.

Beata Kowalewska, from the Regional Veterinary Inspectorate in Silesia, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the results of the tests are expected over the coming days.

Meanwhile, Poland's IKEA customers can still enjoy their meatballs though. Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson speaking from the company's headquarters in Helsingborg, southern Sweden said that Poland sources its meatballs within the country and therefore they would not be recalling their products.

END

Damien Moran
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