Northern Ireland

Iceland boss says sorry for 'the Irish' remark

The chief executive of supermarket chain Iceland has apologised for comments he made about "the Irish" in a TV programme on the horsemeat scandal.

Malcolm Walker said he was deeply sorry if he caused offence with remarks he made to the BBC's Panorama.

He suggested that DNA testing for horsemeat on behalf of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) had been carried out in unaccredited labs.

"Iceland and our chief executive, are deeply sorry," a spokesman said.

"His comments were not intended to be disrespectful to the Irish people, including our many Irish customers, colleagues and suppliers, or to the Irish food safety authorities.

Warned

"We hold all of these in the very highest regard."

Mr Walker had been asked to explain why Iceland burgers passed British tests for equine DNA but failed the Irish tests.

He replied: "Well, that's the Irish, isn't it?"

The FSAI hit back at Mr Walker and warned that any attempt to cast doubt on the veracity and robustness of DNA testing carried on its behalf is disingenuous, dishonest and untruthful.

Chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said: "It is unprofessional that a vested interest would seek to undermine our position with misinformation and speculation.

"Science underpins all policies and actions undertaken by the FSAI."

Two internationally recognised laboratories, Identigen in Dublin and Eurofins Laboratories in Germany, have been used by the FSAI to test for equine DNA.

Identigen's test method is not an accredited method but the FSAI said the same results from the same set of samples were received from the accredited German lab.

The UK Food Standards Agency uses the Eurofins lab.

Iceland, which was found to have burgers in stock that contained 0.1% equine DNA, said it was grateful to the FSAI for initially publicising the horsemeat scandal.

The supermarket said that since the contaminated quarter-pounders were taken off the shelves on 15 January there have been 84 tests on finished Iceland burgers and 54 tests on raw material samples, all of which have proved negative for equine DNA.

The FSAI also reiterated that its investigation did not begin in 2012 on the back of a tip-off.