Month-long programme will check for horse DNA in beef products and illegal horse drug as scandal intensifies.
The European Commission and European Union member
states are to start an immediate testing programme to check for horse DNA in
beef products and for an illegal horse drug in the food chain.
The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting
of the EU's standing committee on the food chain and animal health today.
Countries backed the plan for EU-wide testing initially
put forward by Tonio Borg, the European commissioner for health and consumer
policy, at a ministerial meeting on Wednesday.
Horse DNA has been found in processed food
labelled as beef, in a scandal that now involves 12 EU member states.
Checks will be carried out on about 2,250 samples
of beef products across the EU, ranging from 10-150 in each member state, to
detect the presence of horsemeat that is not declared in the list of
Under EU rules, it is illegal to label a product
as beef if another type of meat is present.
A second set of tests, will aim to detect traces
of phenylbutazone, also known as bute, in horsemeat. Its use in
animals bred for food is illegal. Each country will carry out a minimum of five
tests, with one sample for every 50 tons of horsemeat.
The programme of testing will
start immediately and will take place over a period of a month. It may be
extended by another two months.
Borg said he was satisfied with
the decision of member states to approve the testing process so swiftly.
“I call on them to keep up the pressure in their
efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events,” he added.
Earlier today Borg said that he welcomed the
announcement by France's food safety authority to suspend the licence of the
company Spanghero, which it said had sold horsemeat labelled as beef.
“This is indeed a major step forward,” Borg said.
“The full scope of the investigation remains to be
established but these findings illustrate that traceability of food in the EU
He added: “Consumers must be assured that
everything will be done at EU level to restore, as soon as possible, their
confidence in the products on our markets
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