Horsemeat with bute traces 'probably' entered market

An employee of the microbiological laboratory of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety takes a sample of minced meat in Vienna yesterday. The samples of minced meat are tested for the presence of horse meat as a precaution. Photo: Reuters

An employee of the microbiological laboratory of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety takes a sample of minced meat in Vienna yesterday. The samples of minced meat are tested for the presence of horse meat as a precaution. Photo: Reuters


Three out of six horse carcasses shipped this year from the UK to France with traces of phenylbutazone probably entered the country's meat-producing market, French agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said today.

"These carcasses had extremely weak traces of phenylbutazone," Mr Le Foll said today at the Paris farming fair. "There's no health risk."

France received an alert from UK authorities this month and withdrew three horse carcasses from the market, French media reported today. The alert came too late for three other horse carcasses already used for meat-making purposes in France.

Phenylbutazone is a pain-killing drug for animals and is banned in food for human use.

Earlier today French president Francois Hollande called for compulsory labelling and traceability of meat used in processed foods in Europe to prevent a repeat of the horsemeat scandal.

French and German agriculture ministers said yesterday they agreed on the need for origin labelling and would try to find a deal on meat traceability at a meeting of European farm ministers in Brussels on Monday.

"There needs to be traceability, that is what I want from talks on a European level," Mr Hollande said this morning.

"We need compulsory labelling on meats that will be used in processed foods," Mr Hollande said at the start of the annual agriculture fair in Paris.

He added that while waiting for European legislation, France would encourage voluntary initiatives to improve labelling.

Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan welcomed the call for stricter labelling.

He said as president of the Agriculture Council, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must press ahead with this initiative at Monday’s meeting of the Farm Council.

“Compulsory labelling is long overdue and is something that farmers have repeatedly sought. I will be travelling to Brussels on Monday, and expect Ministers to take strong action and commit to compulsory labelling of meats in all retail and food service outlets, including in restaurants and hotels”.

He added that anyone who fraudulently mislabels meat should face prosecution, “as the high reputation of Irish beef cannot be compromised”.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin today called on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to “step aside from the issue” to allow for an independent investigation into the controversy.

Separately Italian health authorities said today that a frozen lasagna product tested positive for horse DNA, the first such case in the country.

The product being sold in a supermarket in the northern city of Brescia wasn't properly identified as horse meat on its label, according to statement from the Italian health ministry.

The "Lasagna alla Bolognese," made by a company in Bologna, has been removed from store shelves, the ministry said.

Health officials have seized 6 tonnes of ground meat labeled as beef and 2,400 packages of the lasagna product, according to the statement. The ministry said authorities are continuing to conduct check throughout Italy.

Earlier, Italy's health ministry said that tests had found no trace of horse DNA in minced beef meals by Swiss food giant Nestle that were removed from sale on Monday.

Nestle removed the ready-made beef ravioli and tortellini sold under its Buitoni brand from shelves in Italy and Spain and halted production of the meals after its own tests had found more than 1 percent horse DNA in the products.

Italian authorities seized 26 tonnes of affected beef products on Thursday after Nestle withdrew the meals.

"No trace of horse DNA has been found in Nestle cooked and frozen minced beef," the ministry said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what the outcome was of the tests of the food seized in Spain. The Italian tests were carried out on beef products that had been stored at the Safim plant near Turin, the ministry said.

The EU wants to put regulation in place to avoid a repeat of a scandal that burst after horsemeat was found instead of beef in products around the bloc.

The scandal, which has triggered recalls of ready meals and damaged confidence in Europe's vast food industry, erupted last month when tests carried out in Ireland revealed that some beef products contained horsemeat.


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