A man transports manure using a horse-driven cart on a road
near Ucea de Jos village, in Romania. Romania's prime
minister said this week any fraud over horsemeat sold as
beef had not happened in his country. REUTERS/Bogdan
European countries demanded more DNA testing of meat
products and tougher labelling rules over a scandal involving
horsemeat sold as beef that has shocked the public and raised
concerns over the safety of the continent's food supply chains.
Officials have said there is no risk to public health from
the tainted foods. But the suspected fraud has caused
particular outrage in Britain, where many view the idea of
eating horsemeat with distaste, and exposed flawed food
Ministers from the worst-affected EU nations met in Brussels
on Wednesday to discuss their response to the scandal, which
erupted after tests in Ireland showed products labelled as
beef contained up to 100 percent horsemeat.
"This is impacting on the integrity of the food chain, which
is a really significant issue for a lot of countries. Now
that we know this is a European problem, we need a European
solution," Irish farm minister Simon Coveney told reporters
as he arrived for the meeting.
Britain's farm minister said the type of tests that revealed
the problem should be carried out routinely in future.
"I would like to see DNA testing of processed meat products
during process and as finished products established as soon
as possible right across every member state," Owen Paterson
Both ministers urged EU authorities to propose changes to
labelling rules that would force producers to give the
country of origin on processed meat products. Currently the
requirement only applies to fresh beef, and will be extended
to fresh lamb, pork and poultry from Dec. 2014.
The European Commission, which oversees EU labelling rules,
said it was studying the option. But officials have warned
privately that the complexity of supply chains would make
this almost impossible to implement.
EU and national authorities are still trying to uncover the
source of the suspected fraud.
"All those countries through which this meat product has
passed of course are under suspicion," EU health commissioner
Tonio Borg told a news briefing on Wednesday. "By the
countries, I mean the companies in those countries which
dealt with this meat product."
He added that it would be unfair at this stage to point the
finger at any organisation in particular.
NOT JUST HORSE?
On Jan. 15 routine tests by Ireland's Food Safety Authority
found horsemeat in frozen beef burgers produced by firms in
Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including
Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer.
Concerns grew last week when the British unit of frozen foods
group Findus began recalling packets of beef lasagne on
advice from its French supplier Comigel, after tests showed
up to 100 percent of the meat in them was horse.
The affair has since implicated operators and middlemen in a
host of EU countries, from abattoirs in Romania and factories
in Luxembourg to traders in Cyprus and food companies in
Germany said it was investigating a consignment of beef
lasagne sent from Luxembourg to an unnamed retailer in North
Rhine-Westphalia on suspicion it might contain horsemeat.
The first evidence that the labelling scandal could go beyond
horsemeat also emerged, as upmarket British grocer Waitrose
said its testing found that some of its frozen British beef
meatballs might contain pork.
The firm, part of the John Lewis Partnership, has withdrawn
the product from sale.