FROZEN meat at a Northern Irish food factory has been found to contain 80% horse meat.
The Food Standards Agency said the meat tested at Freeza Meats company in Newry was potentially linked to the Silvercrest factory in the Republic of Ireland.
The meat has not entered the food chain.
The FSA NI statement said: “Of the 12 samples from the suspect consignment that have been tested, two of the samples came back positive for horse meat, at around 80%.
“The investigation into the traceability of these raw materials and their source is under way. As this meat was detained, it has not entered the food chain.”
In a statement, Freeza Meats insisted all its own finished products, including burgers, have tested negative for horse meat and equine DNA.
“All tests that have been carried out routinely on our own finished products (ie burgers) have been negative. There have been no traces of equine DNA in any samples taken from Freeza Meats products,” a spokesman said.
Freeza meats said the positive test for horse meat came from samples from a parcel of raw material being held in storage for a meat trader based in the Irish Republic.
The company said it kept the meat on its premises out of goodwill in a “separated area of the storage facility”.
“This raw material was not purchased by Freeza Meats and never reached the food chain through this company,” a spokesman said.
“We have under legal jurisdiction been required to detain the product in quarantine awaiting the direction of the local Environmental Health Office.”
Freeza Meats said food safety chiefs in Northern Ireland have always been aware of the background of the contaminated parcel.
It was first identified by authorities in September and put into quarantine.
The company employs more than 45 people and has been in business since 1988.
“We are fully committed to working with our suppliers and customers. Given the sensitivities of the area in which we work, jobs could be put unnecessarily at risk by misinformation. We look forward to working with the relevant agencies in Northern Ireland to resolve this issue,” a spokesman said.