EU proposes meat testing plan
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Britain's Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and European Health and Commissioner Tonio Borg attend the meeting to discuss the horsemeat contriversy. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters
The European Commission is to introduce a coordinated two-pronged meat control and testing plan across member states to tackle the horsemeat crisis, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg said tonight.
The month-long plan will recommend that countries carry out controls at market level of products to identify misleading labelling practices in beef products. It will also ask member states to control for the detection of the drug phenylbutazone in raw horse-meat, he said in a statement. Results are to be reported back to the Commission, he said.
He reiterated his belief that there was currently no evidence to suggest the “scandal poses a threat to public health”.
"We are treating it as a case of fraudulent misuse of the labelling system for economic gain and Europol will coordinate the different criminal investigations going on," he said tonight.
The statement came after a meeting of concerned EU agriculture ministers in Brussels tonight, which was convened by Ireland yesterday.
"This coordinated control plan will have to be done by all member states but in proportion to the size of their domestic market, so as to restore the confidence of all European consumers," Mr Borg said in a statement.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney tonight welcomed Mr Borg’s proposal which see testing carried out between March 1st and 31st.
“Overall some 2,500 samples of processed beef products will be taken across the EU and some 4,000 samples taken at slaughterhouses for phenythbutazone,” Mr Coveney said in a statement.
“These 4,000 samples will compromise of 2500 samples of EU horsemeat and 1500 samples from non-EU horsemeat,” he added.
The findings will be published on April 15th , he said.
“Ireland will continue to give leadership in this area and will work with our EU partners to ensure new consumer assurance measures, including increased testing and more accurate labelling, are introduced," he said.
Earlier today Mr Coveney called for the fast-tracking of proposed European legislation on the labelling of processed food,.
Mr Coveney stressed the important of a collective European response to the horse meat crisis. He called for an "open and blunt conversation about how best we can collectively respond to this."
The issue, which had first been highlighted in Ireland, was now a European problem, he said.
"Now that we know this is a European problem, we need a European solution," he said, adding that he was satisfied with the European Commission's response.
Mr Coveney said that so far there was no threat to public health. "As of now no tests suggest there is health risks to what happened. This is a fraud issue, it is a labelling issue. If as a result of the test that changes we'll obviously have to respond to that appropriately." he said.