Horsemeat discovery 'not a food safety issue'

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The NI health minister assured the Assembly that the discovery of horsemeat at a cold store in Newry, County Down, was not a food safety issue, on 5 February 2013.

Edwin Poots was responding to an urgent question asked by the SDLP's Joe Byrne.

He said that NI Food Standards Agency (FSA) was investigating how horsemeat ended up among a consignment at Freeza Meats of Newry.

The FSA said that 12 samples had been tested and two came back positive for horsemeat, at about 80%.

The discovery follows horse DNA found at a plant in the Irish Republic.

The health minister said the issue concerned labelling and products and would not have a detrimental impact on a person's health.

"If people buy a beef burger, they expect a beef burger. If it contains horse meat then it should say it contains horse and people can make their choices," he said.

"The issue is that people are buying goods which are not what they say on the label and therefore consumers have an issue about confidence."

Health Committee chairwoman Sue Ramsey said there was was a high level of public concern due to the latest finding.

Sinn Fein's Mickey Brady said Freeza Meats of Newry did not own the contaminated assignment and was storing the meat for a company in the Irish Republic after declining to buy it.

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