Fuming Asda bosses last night vowed to get to the bottom of the contaminated beef scandal that has left it with no own-brand frozen burgers.
Workers yesterday had to clear shelves for a second time after Polish meat being stored by the shop’s supplier was found to contain 80% horse – the biggest amount so far discovered in tests.
Staff moved swiftly when a new investigation uncovered the batch of rogue raw cuts, destined to be turned into burgers, at Freeza Meats.
Irish trader Martin McAdam owned the 900kg of meat but it was being stored inside the plant at Newry, Co Down, as a favour after factory chiefs turned down a deal to buy it.
An Asda source said: “There is a real determination to find out exactly how this came to happen.
“The meat was found on the premises of one of our suppliers and we want to know how and why this was allowed.”
The superstore had to bin tens of thousands of its Just Beef, 100% Beef Quarter Pounders, 100% Beef Burgers and Big Eat Burgers, which had been labelled 100% beef.
Experts estimate the cost of Asda’s shelf clearing could run into millions if the crisis drags on long term.
Store bosses carried out their own tests on beef from Freeza Meats.
A spokeswoman said: “There are no signs of horse meat but as a precaution we have withdrawn four lines of burgers and suspended trade until further notice.”
Only Birds Eye and fresh burgers are now available in the store.
Asda had already ditched 29 lines when horse meat was found in food from another supplier, Silvercrest, three weeks ago.
Officials from the Food Standards Agency swooped on Freeza Meats to check its product after horse was found in Irish factories.
Two out of 12 samples tested contained mostly horse.
A Freeza Meats spokesman said: “We were approached by the meat trader McAdam Foods Services in Co Monaghan to purchase a parcel of raw material, which we declined.
“Martin McAdam subsequently asked us to hold his product in storage which we did in goodwill in a separated area of the storage facility. The raw material never reached the food chain.”
And Mr McAdam last night insisted he got the meat in good faith from two EU approved Polish suppliers and was assured it was beef.
He said: “I have never traded in horse meat. I am flabbergasted and still reeling.
“A paper trail goes back to Poland and it shows that I only bought beef. I bought it in good faith from EU approved suppliers and it should be what it says on the tin.”
Mr McAdam who set up the family business seven years ago has handed over his documents to the FSA and the Agriculture Department’s Special Investigation Unit.
A spokesman for McAdam Foods Services said: “We are shocked to discover equine content has been identified in products which have been imported and supplied through us.
“The source of these products is Polish and we have identified the specific supplier names to the Irish authorities.
“Any such products were bought on the basis of their being ordered, documented, labelled and understood to be beef, and nothing else.
“We confirm that product of Polish origin was stored at Freeza Meats in Newry for us last year on a goodwill basis. We are co-operating fully and willingly with the authorities.”
Freeza Meats has now pledged to change the practise of storing meat for third parties as a favour.
The contaminated batch has been seized and quarantined.
Professor Alan Reilly, whose research at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland first exposed the contamination, said: “We are no longer talking about trace amounts, we are talking about horse meat.
“Somebody, some place is drip-feeding horse meat into the burger manufacturing industry. We don’t know exactly where this is happening.”
For the first time police on both sides of the Irish border have been drafted in to help close the net on the scandal.
Polish authorities have denied their nation is responsible for dodgy exports.
But Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has thrown down the gauntlet and invited them to examine the evidence.
The latest chapter comes just 24 hours after the Mirror revealed another Irish firm was at the centre of a police inquiry after burgers were found to be 75% horse.
Rangeland Foods of Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, shut amid suspicions Polish meat was behind the contamination.
Weeks ago Irish-owned Silvercrest had to close after some Tesco burgers were found to contain 29% horse meat.
Tesco, Co-op, Iceland and Sainsbury’s which withdrew burgers as a result of contamination at Silvercrest and sister company Dalepak said they were unaffected by the latest crisis.
Firm stands for ‘quality’
FREEZA Meats, based in Northern Ireland, has been making burgers for more than four decades.
Set up in 1974 it employs 45 people and supplies retailers including ASDA as well as cafes, restaurants and hotels.
Its website boasts the firm’s name “has always stood for high quality meat products”, adding that “the management continually strive to produce quality products using high quality ingredients”.
The company has invested £3million to keep its factory up to EU safety standards.