Iceland has apologised after CEO Malcolm Walker outraged customers with a controversial comment about “the Irish” on Panorama last night.

On the show, Walker responded to a question about the contents of Iceland burgers by saying “B.E.E.F. That’s what in our burgers.”

Presenter Richard Bilton responded by saying: “The Irish say there is 0.1% H.O.R.S.E.”. To which Walker replied, “Well, that’s the Irish isn’t it.”

The comment has been attacked by Irish shoppers, who have threatened to boycott Iceland stores.

The chain has since posted an apology on its Facebook page that reads: “Iceland and our CEO Malcolm Walker are deeply sorry for any offence caused by his TV interview last night. 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.”

Iceland has also softened its stance over the testing carried out by the FSAI.

Last Friday, Iceland released a statement saying: “The testing method used by the FSAI was not an accredited test and the current accepted threshold level is 1% (10 times the level reported in the Iceland product).”

However, it released a further statement on Monday evening which read:

“Iceland has great respect for the food standards authorities in both the UK and Ireland, and is grateful to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (“FSAI”) in particular for the excellent work it has done in making processors, retailers and consumers aware of the adulteration of beef products by horsemeat.

“The FSAI reported on 15 January 2013 that two samples of Iceland Quarter Pounder burgers had tested positive for equine DNA at the level of 0.1%. We immediately withdrew the relevant batches of these products from sale as a precaution, and began an urgent investigation with our supplier. Tests of further samples from these batches by independent laboratories found no evidence of any equine contamination. However, we accept that the FSAI obtained valid test results from an accredited laboratory using a methodology that is commonly used in the burger industry elsewhere in the world, even though the head of the UK Food Standards Authority (FSA) informed the House of Commons Committee investigating this matter that it was “not an accredited test” in the UK.

“We further accept that equine contamination of 0.1% is not acceptable either to us or our customers, though it is only one tenth of the level set by the UK FSA as the cut-off for reporting purposes in the further round of tests recently undertaken across the UK food industry. As reported on 15 February, all Iceland products containing beef have been tested in accordance with the FSA’s requirements and found to be clear of equine contamination.

“Since the FSAI reported on Iceland’s Quarter Pounders on 15 January, we and our suppliers have undertaken 84 tests of finished Iceland burgers and 54 tests on raw material samples, all of which have proved negative for equine DNA. Raw material is tested before its release onto the production line and finished product before it is dispatched to Iceland’s depots, and positively released in both cases only when clear test results have been received. Species segregation in the burger production facility has also been reviewed and enhanced.

“Iceland remains totally committed to working with its suppliers, the FSA and FSAI and other regulatory bodies to confirm that it meets or exceeds all statutory requirements, thus ensuring that all Iceland brand products meet the high standards of quality and integrity that we specify and which our customers are entitled to expect.”