28th Oct 2016

EU horsemeat affair prompts DNA testing

  • Yum yum yum: some 'beef' lasagna is 100 percent horsemeat (Photo: Dalboz17)

The European Commission is urging member states to intensify DNA tests on meat products to see how much horsemeat there is in EU "beef."

“The tests will be on DNA in meat products in all member states,” health commissioner Tonio Borg told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (13 February).

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He said EU countries should intensify tests in an initial 30-day period starting in March as part of a bigger, three-month-long programme.

Overall, member states are to test 2,500 samples of processed beef products and 4,000 samples from slaughterhouses.

The slaughterhouse samples will comprise of 2,500 samples of EU horsemeat and 1,500 samples from non-EU horsemeat.

The inspectors will be looking for an anti-inflammatory injected into horses, called phenythbutazone or "bute," which could pose a health risk to people who eat their flesh.

Initial results will be published on 15 April.

The scandal erupted in mid-January when Irish food inspectors found horsemeat in frozen hamburgers.

Companies and slaughterhouses in eight member states have now been dragged into the affair.

Horse is considered good eating in some member states, such as Belgium and France, but other consumers, such as British and Irish people, avoid it.

Dutch meat trader possibly behind scandal

Early suspicions on the origins of the contaminated beef fell on two slaughterhouses in Romania.

Rural poverty in the country has forced some farmers to sell their horses to abattoirs, where the price of equine meat is about half that of beef.

Bucharest has denied the allegations, however. It says its horsemeat is always properly labelled before being shipped to the rest of Europe.

“The results of the Romanian in depth investigation confirmed the compliance of our companies with the legal provisions,” Romania’s minister of agriculture and rural development, Daniel Constantin, told at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, British daily The Guardian says the culprit behind the mislabelling scandal could be the director of Dutch firm Draap Trading.

Dutch broadcaster NOS reported the meat trader was sentenced in January for passing off horsemeat as halal-slaughtered Dutch beef. The company is registered in Cyprus, based in Belgium, and owned by an offshore vehicle in the British Virgin Islands.

It had obtained a consignment of correctly labeled horsemeat from Romania.

But, according to The Guardian, the meat was then shipped off to French company Spanghero. Spagnhero supplied another French company, called Comigel, that makes meat products, such as "beef" lasagne. Its lasagna, in some cases, was found to contain 100 percent horsemeat even though it was labeled as beef.

The company’s director denies any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, German supermarket chain Real on Wednesday confirmed traces of horsemeat in its frozen lasagna meals.

The chain operates around 300 stores across Europe. The meals are no longer on sale.

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