By Chris Borowski
WARSAW, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Poland's veterinary officials have asked Ireland to allow them to take samples at an Irish meat plant in a dispute between the two countries over who is responsible for horse meat found in grounded beef which was sold to food companies.
The controversy surrounding the discovery of horse DNA in beef products sold by an Irish firm to companies such as Tesco and Burger King has tainted beef production in Ireland, the world's fourth largest beef exporter, and Poland.
Ireland says Polish producers are the likely sources of the contamination although Poland's veterinary inspector said it found no signs of horse meat at any plants that provided beef to Ireland.
The office of Poland's Chief Veterinary Officer said it would now inspect all abattoirs and plants processing horse meat after Ireland's agriculture department found 75 percent horse DNA in tests of Polish meat at Rangeland Foods, a second producer with contaminated beef products.
It said it backed the request of one Polish producer to receive counter samples from the Rangeland facility, which was rejected by the Irish government.
'Because of this, the Chief Veterinary Officer has turned to Ireland's government today about a possibility of taking counter samples in the presence of representatives of both companies and representatives of Polish veterinary inspectors,' it said in a statement.
Poland exports 330,000 tonnes of beef products annually, or more than three-quarters of its total production, mainly to other European Union members.
Silvercrest, a plant run by Ireland's most powerful beef baron Larry Goodman, was the first whose burgers were found to contain horsemeat last month.
Initial tests on burgers produced by another Irish company, Liffey Meats, also tested positive for low traces of horse DNA, although further tests came back clear.
Burger King, one of the most popular fast food chains in Britain and Ireland, said last week its affected burgers never reached any eateries. Tesco withdrew a number of products from its shelves, including one sample where horse meat accounted for about 29 percent of content.
Smaller retail chains Aldi, Lidl and Iceland have also sold beef products found to contain horse DNA.
(Editing by Oliver Holmes) Keywords: IRELAND HORSEMEAT/POLAND
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