ABP Food Group has announced a major shake-up of its Irish and UK operations in response to the horse meat contamination scandal.

The company’s Silvercrest plant in Ireland – which has been at the centre of the scandal, and produced the Tesco Everyday Value burger that was found to contain 29.1% horse DNA relative to the beef content – will get a new management team and will come under direct responsibility of ABP’s Irish chilled beef division, ABP Ireland. At present, Silvercrest is part of ABP’s convenience foods business.

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire plant implicated in the scandal – Dalepak Hambleton – is to become the direct responsibility of ABP UK, the company’s UK chilled beef division.

In addition, ABP has announced it will now independently audit all its third-party suppliers and has commenced a new DNA testing regime, which will include checks for horse DNA. The company’s Silvercrest plant will be subjected to a deep-cleanse, with all current product to be removed.

ABP announced the shake-up of its operations after the Irish government revealed on Saturday (26 January) that it had traced the source of the horse DNA contamination at Silvercrest to an imported ingredient from Poland.

Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney said officials had worked closely with ABP management throughout the investigations and there was no evidence ABP had used horse meat deliberately.

Silvercrest was shut down temporarily after the scandal broke. Coveney said ABP had committed to a number of conditions to production standards at the plant once it reopens. These include the aforementioned deep-cleanse as well as direct scrutiny from government officials for six months, including DNA checks.

Coveney added a key condition was also “the company’s commitment to source all its raw material from the UK and Ireland”.  

ABP group chief executive Paul Finnerty said the company was relieved the source of the horse DNA problem had been identified. “This has been a very difficult experience for all involved and has led to significant interruption in business for Silvercrest and its customers,” he said. “While the company has never knowingly purchased or traded in equine product, I wish to take this opportunity to apoligise for the impact this issue ahs caused.”