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Following a European ministerial meeting in Brussels, February 13, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borghas requested an extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain to discuss the horse meat scandal with all Member States today, romania-insider.com reports.
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. 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.
He also told BBC Newsnight’s Gavin Esler the horsemeat scandal was a “clear case of fraud”, adding “we should work together on the European side to strengthen the checks and the rules.” Ponta added his main responsibility was towards the consumer saying they have “the right to know the truth about food.”
New findings in this case
Horsemeat has been detected in frozen lasagne on sale in Germany and supermarkets have started removing the product from their shelves, BBC reports. The Real supermarket chain said it had withdrawn TiP frozen lasagne – the latest tainted processed food to figure in a Europe-wide scandal. Other German retailers including Tengelmann and Rewe are now checking their processed beef products too. German authorities suspect a batch of lasagne sent from Luxembourg to a retailer in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Also, Jan Fasen, a director of Draap Trading Ltd confirmed for The Guardian that he bought a consignment of horsemeat from two Romanian abattoirs and sold it to French food processors. He insisted he had clearly labelled it as horse, evz.ro informs. “As for the Romanian supplies, they delivered 100%. When they deliver beef, they deliver beef. No problem. When they deliver horse, they deliver horse. There is never, ever horse invoiced as beef. I was 100% sure I was buying horse. We sold it to Spanghero in France as well as to clients in Belgium and Holland. It was all sold as horse. There is no issue.”
The Dutch meat trader has emerged as a key suspect in Europe’s spiralling horse meat scandal following allegations that he was convicted as recently as last year for passing off horse as beef. On Wednesday Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that Fasen was sentenced in January 2012 for deliberately marketing South American horsemeat as halal-slaughtered Dutch beef and falsifying documents. Draap Trading Ltd is a Cypriot-registered company, run from the Antwerp area of Belgium, and owned by an offshore vehicle based in the British Virgin Islands. Draap spelled backwards is the Dutch word for horse.
Bute, in eight UK-slaughtered horses
Food minister David Heath said three horses, slaughtered in the UK, had tested positive for bute and may have entered the food chain in France, BBC reports. Responding to an urgent question in the House, he said tests for traces of bute in Findus products were negative. A total of eight horse carcasses tested positive for phenylbutazone (bute), an anti-inflammatory painkiller used to treat horses which can in rare cases by harmful to humans if ingested.
Given these circumstances, 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, euobserver.com reports. 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. Initial results will be published on 15 April.
The proposals are expected to be signed off by a full meeting of member states this week. The commission will also ask Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, to co-ordinate information among member states – a sign that ministers believe the scandal is a matter of criminal misconduct, ft.com informs. “The question is who did what, where and when?” said Tonio Borg. “And I am confident we will get to the bottom of this.”
Some answers would have had become clearer on yesterday afternoon, when Paris is expected to present the results of its preliminary investigation, French officials said. Stephane Le Foll, France’s agriculture minister, indicated that he would support more stringent food labels.