Drive for cheaper food a significant factor in burger crisis

Farming groups have claimed that the “relentless drive” for cheaper, faster food is a significant factor in the recent ‘burger’ controversy.

Farming groups have claimed that the “relentless drive” for cheaper, faster food is a significant factor in the recent ‘burger’ controversy.

Last week the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney announced preliminary laboratory results that indicated the presence of equine DNA in samples of burgers taken by the Department on Tuesday, 15th January, from product manufactured in one plant (Silvercrest) in the period 3rd to 14th January.

By the time of the announcement, these products were already withdrawn by the company from the market and samples of seven raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another Member State, tested positive.

All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for equine DNA. Thirteen samples of finished burgers were tested, nine tested positive for traces of equine DNA.

Following the announcement the Minister and the FSAI said there was no concern from a food safety perspective but the investigation will continue to conclusively establish the source of the equine DNA.

Responding to the crisis, the President of ICMSA, John Comer, said farmers ‘on the ground’ have no doubt that a very significant factor in this week’s ‘burger’ controversy and other previous food controversies are a direct result of the relentless pressure being exerted on processors throughout the EU by the massive multiples to supply food at cheaper and cheaper prices.

“The huge and practically unsupervised power of the multinational multiples is the key factor in the drive for cheaper and cheaper food and this sole focus has to eventually tell at some interim stage between the farmer’s gate and the consumer’s purchase”, said the ICMSA President

“It’s still very disappointing for Irish farmers that our industry has been undermined in this way. Irish farmers and processors have invested heavily in developing our excellent reputation as a food producer and we cannot allow this to be undermined by what at this stage appears to be imported materials.”

His words were echoed by IFA President, John Bryan who said ”nothing or no-one can be allowed compromise the high standards and reputation of Irish-produced food.”

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) President, Gabriel Gilmartin, said that it was significant that the only raw material sample, which tested positive, was from another member state.

“We need answers on why there is any need for imported ingredients in burgers when Ireland is the biggest exporter of beef in the Northern hemisphere,” he added.

Mr Gilmartin added that all meat processing plants should now ensure that they suspend the use of any imported material in meat products until this crisis is over