Iceland Foods has said it is “deeply sorry” for offence caused by chief executive Malcolm Walker after Irish consumers threatened to boycott the store over comments made on BBC1’s Panorama programme last night.

The frozen food chain’s founder said “well, that’s the Irish isn’t it” after presenter Richard Bilton said Irish authorities said 0.1% horse meat has been found in Iceland burgers.

Posters on Iceland’s Facebook page threatened to boycott the retailer and branded Walker a “racist”.

The retailer said: “Iceland and our chief executive Malcolm Walker are deeply sorry for any offence caused by his TV interview last night. His comments were not intended to be disrespectful to the Irish people, including our many Irish customers, colleagues and suppliers, or to the Irish food safety authorities.

“We hold all of these in the very highest regard. Our gratitude to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland for bringing the entry of horsemeat to the human food chain to public notice is underlined in our statement.”

Walker’s comments came after he blasted the horse meat scandal as a “storm in a teacup” at the weekend.

Walker claimed that Iceland’s burgers did not contain any horse meat and questioned testing methods used by Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

However, in a statement on Monday Iceland said: “We further accept that equine contamination of 0.1% is not acceptable either to us or our customers, though it is only one tenth of the level set by the UK FSA as the cut-off for reporting purposes in the further round of tests recently undertaken across the UK food industry.

“As reported on 15 February, all Iceland products containing beef have been tested in accordance with the FSA’s requirements and found to be clear of equine contamination.”

Iceland said species segregation in the burger production facility has been “reviewed and enhanced”.