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EU: Horse meat scandal of fraudulent labelling

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

EU: Horse meat scandal of fraudulent labelling

The European Commission has proposed increased DNA testing of meat products to assess the scale of a scandal involving horse meat sold as beef that has shocked the European public and raised concern over the continent's food supply chains. The control is to include imported goods as well.
"The tests will be on DNA in meat products in all member states," Health Commissioner Tonio Borg told reporters after a ministerial meeting in Brussels to discuss the affair.
The initial one-month testing plan would include premises handling horsemeat to check whether potentially harmful equine medicine residues have entered the food chain, Borg said, with the first results expected by mid-April. Member States should report the results back to the Commission. The Commission will also explore the possibility of co-financing of this recommended coordinated control plan.
This is the second step of a coordinated EU- level control plan, aimed to restore the confidence of all European consumers, following the recommendation of the European Commission for the Member States to carry out appropriate controls at market level of products that are presented as containing beef, in order to identify the scale of any misleading labelling practices as to the presence of horsemeat.
The scandal erupted when tests carried out in Ireland revealed that meat in products labelled as beef was in fact up to 100% horsemeat. Operators in at least eight EU countries have since been dragged into the affair, raising fears of a pan-European labelling fraud.
Officials have said no risk to public health from the adulterated foods has been identified at this stage but testing for horse medicine in meat is being undertaken to be sure. However, it has been underlined that the issue is therefore overwhelmingly one of fraudulent labelling rather than one of safety, as the food business operator has the primary responsibility for ensuring that the requirements of European food law are met. Once a food product is put on the market in the EU, it is the responsibility of Member States to check whether or not the product presents a risk and whether it complies with applicable legislation.
At the urging of ministers, Borg said the Commission would accelerate work on potential changes to EU labelling rules that would force companies to state the country of origin on processed meat products. Currently the requirement only applies to fresh beef, and is expected to be extended to fresh lamb, pork and poultry from December 2014.
EU and national authorities are still trying to uncover the source of the suspected horsemeat fraud.

Source: Euractiv, European commission