An explosive new report has claimed the Irish meat processor that supplied horsemeat into Birds Eye spaghetti Bolognese and lasagne knew last summer that some product it had sourced from Poland contained horse.

The news is a massive blow to the Irish food industry and government as they struggle to minimise the damage caused by the scandal.

A report on the horsemeat scandal issued today by the Irish department of agriculture, food and the marine has revealed that QK Meats contacted the department last month and informed it that seven tests it had carried out on product from Poland had come back positive for horse DNA - and that the first positive result had been on 27 June last year. QK subsequently contacted the Polish supplier, which arranged to take back the consignment. Further consignments of Polish product obtained by QK tested positive in October, November and December 2012, as well as in January 2013.

QK claimed none of the equine-positive raw material entered the food chain.

In his report (Equine DNA & Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation) published this afternoon, Simon Coveney TD, minister for agriculture, marine and food said the findings were “extremely disturbing” as QK had failed to inform the state. “These facts would have informed the official investigation in a significant way and, most likely would have led to earlier conclusions on the source of the equine DNA. Failure on their part to act at a much earlier time was inexcusable,” he said.

The department had established that County Kildare-based QK was purchasing raw material from Poland at €400 per tonne less than the price of corresponding beef trimmings available in Ireland. “It is clear that in a country that is a net exporter of beef products, this competitive pricing aspect of the trade is the primary motivator in utilising imported ingredients in the manufacturing process,” Coveney added.

QK Meats was unavailable for comment.