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Horsemeat: Future of meat processor in doubt as major chains end contracts

31 January 2013

The source of the horsemeat in burgers has been identified as blocks of frozen meat (comprising beef and horsemeat offcuts) imported from Poland, according to Leatherhead Food Research and The Daily Mail. 

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns that the meat may have been used in burgers for some time. The Polish meat processor has been supplying meat to Silvercrest for about a year.

It would now appear that the meat used in Tesco burgers did not come from a list of approved suppliers. The supermarket chain has now stopped its contract with Silvercrest, describing it as a 'breach of trust', and has decided to undertake its own DNA testing system for meat products, as well as carrying out quality checks on other foods. Although it was initially reported that the presence of horsemeat in burgers was unlikely to have any effect on human health, it later emerged that the meat could contain a potentially carcinogenic drug (phenylbutazone, or 'bute') used to treat horses. 

ABP, the company that owns Silvercrest, reports that it is 'relieved that the source of the problem has been identified' and has pledged to introduce new DNA tests for its meat supplies. The Independent reports that, as well as Tesco, other companies are ending their contracts with Silvercrest. It is estimated that losing sales to Tesco, Aldi, the Co-op and Burger King, which represents about 75% of annual production, could put the future of the company in jeopardy. The contract with Burger King alone is estimated at EUR30m and Tesco's contract is worth EUR15m a year. Tesco aims to continuing sourcing beef products from Irish suppliers, including other ABP companies. 

The Financial Times points out that, although burgers from other suppliers (including Liffey Meats) were found to contain 'traces' of horse DNA, it was the products that Silvercrest supplied to Tesco that had the highest amount. ABP has temporarily closed the Silvercrest plant and changed all of its management.


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