Meat crisis beyond lone 'rogue trader'

The European Commission has proposed tests to complement existing testing at a national level including random DNA testing of meat products. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The European Commission has proposed tests to complement existing testing at a national level including random DNA testing of meat products. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 00:00

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said today he believes the labelling of horse meat as beef goes beyond "one rogue trader".

It was announced last night that Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, is to co-ordinate criminal investigations into the horse meat scandal, in the first EU response to the deepening crisis.

The European Commission last night also announced a series of proposed tests to complement existing testing at a national level. The proposed tests comprise random DNA testing of processed beef products, and tests to detect phenylbutazone (bute) residues in abattoirs.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said the EU-wide problem is being dealt with.

“I suspect this is not just one rogue trader in one country. I mean I think it’s broader than that. I think there are a number of people who have been selling horse meat as beef, so it’s taking some time to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “At the moment, this problem looks like fraudulent labelling and there is plenty of law and legislation to deal with that.”

Mr Coveney cited the supply chain of Findus products which were made up of 100 per cent horse meat rather than beef.

“Those products were produced by a Swedish company who actually sourced processed product from a French company in Luxembourg, who sourced product through a Cypriot trader, who sourced through the Netherlands and the Netherlands actually sourced horsemeat from Romania,” he said. "It matters to us in terms of reputation, in terms of the integrity of the food chain and of course consumers need to be reassured that the know what they are eating. Whatever measures are necessary, we will take."

The three-month programme of control measures will go before a special meeting of the EU’s standing committee on the food chain tomorrow.

The proposals by the commission will be in the form of a recommendation. However, a spokesman for Tonio Borg, the European commissioner for health and consumer policy, said he was confident that all member states would back the scheme. The commission will contribute about 50 per cent of the estimated €3 million cost.

After a meeting of eight EU countries in Brussels last night, Mr Coveney said the horse meat issue was an “EU-wide problem that needs a EU-wide solution”.

He said the new proposals by the European Commission, if approved, should reassure consumers. Simultaneous investigations were under way across the EU, he added. “We need to find out who was responsible, how it happened and put systems in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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