Following an European ministerial meeting in Brussels yesterday (February 13 ), European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg (in picture) has requested an extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain to discuss the horse meat scandal with all Member States on Friday (February 15 ).
Commissioner Borg said he was following the situation closely and that since the European Commission (EC) was notified, his services had been working constantly with national governments to identify the source of the problem.
It looks like there will be widespread DNA testing of meat products across the EU, given the comments from ministers after yesterday’s meeting in Brussels. Commissioner Borg promised tests in all member states, including DNA tests, essentially to identify if the meat on the label is really the meat in the packet, and tests for the presence of horse medicine, which is potentially harmful to humans.
The Commissioner said he was working particularly closely with the authorities in the UK, France, The Netherlands, Romania and Luxembourg, which are currently the focus of the issue, either for production and/or distribution of beef products contaminated with horse meat.
The horse meat scandal, which started when routine testing in Ireland found that some products labeled as beef contained horse meat, has spread to Britain and France, with Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Romania being implicated in the production, packaging and distribution processes that allegedly led to mislabeled products on the shelves in British and French supermarkets. “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,” said Irish farm minister Simon Coveney, quoted by Reuters.
Commissioner Borg said he hoped the national authorities would “uncover soon the culprits.” Romania’s PM Victor Ponta promised that he himself would make sure all relevant authorities carried out an investigation to find out the truth in the case, pledging an open and transparent process that would satisfy the European authorities. Romania’s Agriculture Minister said that the two Romanian companies accused by the French firms had been checked, without any official European request, and no irregularities had been found.
Findus, which produces ready meals found to contain up to 100 percent horse meat, has said French company Comigel supplied contaminated meat products. Comigel in turn blamed another French firm Spanghero for supplying horse meat, while Spanghero claims that Romanian abattoirs sold horse labeled as beef. However, it has emerged that Spanghero did not get the meat directly from Romania, instead two intermediaries, one Dutch and one Cypriot, are said to have supplied Spanghero.
The finger of blame was quickly pointed at Romania, but investigation soon found that local abattoirs appeared to be openly and legally selling horse meat, with the necessary national and EU permits.
(photo source: europa.eu)