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FSAI Confirms Accreditation of Laboratories

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today states that attempts to cast doubt on the veracity and robustness of the DNA testing carried on its behalf by a number of laboratories is disingenuous, dishonest and untruthful.  It states that some small segment of the retail sector is seeking to undermine the actual results in an attempt to distance themselves from the scientifically sound results which have implications for their product.

The FSAI confirms that for its survey on equine DNA in beef products, it employed the services of two internationally recognised laboratories – Identigen in Dublin and Eurofins Laboratories in Germany. Following the detection of equine DNA in burgers by Identigen, for the sake of certainty, 20 sub-samples (10 positives and 10 negatives) from the initial 27 burger survey samples were taken from the Identigen laboratory and sent as blind samples to the Eurofins laboratory in Germany for additional independent testing. The tests by Eurofins confirmed both the positive and negative findings by Identigen.

The FSAI is confident about the competence of both laboratories, which operate quality management systems that are accredited to the European Standard EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005.  The particular test method used by Eurofins to identify the equine DNA is included in its scope of accreditation.  In Identigen’s case, the lack of current accreditation for its test method does not invalidate its test findings on the FSAI’s samples, as these have been corroborated and demonstrated as accurate by the accredited confirmatory tests undertaken by Eurofins. The services of both laboratories continue to be used by regulators and industry alike across Europe. The UK’s Food Standards Agency is currently using the Eurofins laboratory as one of the laboratories for its current testing programme.

The recently proposed EU testing regime uses a 1% limit as a cut off point for reporting purposes.  This limit was set as an arbitrary action level, above which fraudulent activity might be suspected, the reasoning being that substituting horsemeat for beef at less than 1% would be of no commercial advantage.  In its survey, the FSAI survey tested for the presence or absence of equine DNA with amounts quantified in samples where it was detected. In the case of the burgers from Iceland, a level of 0.1% equine DNA was detected in samples tested by Identigen.  This positive finding is still relevant and should of itself trigger investigation.

Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI states; “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.  In addition, for clarity too, a number of UK media are seeking to suggest incorrectly that the FSAI undertook its original survey in 2012 following information it had received.  The FSAI again states that there is no truth in this whatsoever; the survey was undertaken as part of our routine monitoring and market surveillance activities.”

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