Processed beef to face random DNA tests
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Britain's environment secretary Owen Paterson and European health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg attend a meeting in Brussels yesterday to discuss responses to the discovery of horse meat in beef products in several EU countries. photograph: reuters
Random DNA testing of processed beef products are among a series of measures which EU states will undertake as part of a three-month programme to tackle the food labelling crisis.
Commissioner Torio Borg gave details yesterday of the EU-wide programme of control measures designed to tackle the horse meat crisis. There will also be testing for horse meat residues in slaughterhouses.
Under the proposals, testing will be carried out in all member states for all of March with results published by April 15th.
The recommendations will be tabled at a special meeting of the standing committee of the food chain and animal health tomorrow. EU agriculture ministers must also approve the proposals.
The commission’s proposals were unveiled after an informal meeting of agriculture ministers convened by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
Raided by police
The meeting took place as it emerged that the owner of a Welsh meat company raided by police had said the horse meat on his premises had come from the Republic.
Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth was raided by police, acting jointly with food standards officials, on Tuesday.
The British food safety authority’s director of operations Andrew Rhodes said five slaughterhouses in Britain processed horses on a regular basis, adding that suspicions about one of them had led to the raid near Aberystwyth.
The Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, west Yorkshire was also raided. Dafydd Raw Rees of Farmbox Meats said that the firm was licensed to deal with horses and it had been cutting horse meat from the Republic for the last three weeks.
“As far as I’m concerned, I know nothing about the plant in west Yorkshire. I have never knowingly processed horse meat until three weeks ago,” he said.
A solicitor representing Farmbox Meats, said the Welsh processing firm denied any wrongdoing. “The audit trail for the horse meat at the plant is clear – from the point of slaughter in Ireland, to the cutting at the company premises, to eventual delivery in Belgium,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture said said last night that there was one department approved equine slaughter plant in Ireland – Ballon Meats, Ballon, Co Carlow.
There are also two local authority approved plants, Ashgrove Wholesale, Newcastle West, Co Limerick and Ossory Meats, Banagher, Co Offaly, a spokeswoman said.
It has been decided that these will be “taken under department supervision”she said “and arrangements for the changeover are in progress.”
Meanwhile, Swiss supermarket chain Coop has found horse meat in its own-brand lasagne, which has the same French supplier, Comigel, at the heart of a scandal in Britain.
Speaking after last night’s meeting in Brussels, Mr Coveney said member states had requested that the European Commission would prioritise the report on food labelling for processed food which is currently being considered by the commission.
Earlier yesterday, one of Britain’s leading food scientists said the EU Commission was broadly correct in the assessment that the horsemeat scandal was a labelling issue rather than a threat to public health.
‘‘In principle I accept that,’’ Dr Mark Wolfe, former head of food authenticity and the UK food standards agency, told RTÉ .
He has claimed that changes to rules governing the use of ingredients in burgers could have contributed to the discovery of horsemeat in products labelled as containing beef.
These changes, which came into effect last year ‘‘must have contributed to a large extent to this situation,’’ he said, adding that a type of burger meat could no longer be used. This forced producers to look to other European sources for ingredients for supermarket ‘‘value’’ or ‘‘budget’’ products and affected products other than beef.
‘‘It does suggest that a lot of manufactures who wanted to fill this gap had to go abroad to get their raw materials at the same price,’’ Dr Wolfe said.