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EU tackles food safety, Bucharest warns over horsemeat scandal consequences

EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos says an EU member state should not be accused based on mere words and praised Romanian authorities’ reaction.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta commented on the scandal of the horsemeat exported to the EU, during a cabinet meeting held yesterday, saying that such an issue can be even worse for Romanian producers than “draught,” according to rtv.ro. PM Victor Ponta explained that this is a credibility issue that must be dealt with soon. “The important thing is that the minister of agriculture and the chief of the ANSVSA acted very well until now – I controlled, I made available. (…) Romania must pass this test very well and I hope that the ministry of Agriculture and the ANSVSA will be very efficient, because this is an essential matter,” PM Ponta added.
In his turn, during a visit to Sibiu, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Romania, Martin Harris said that there is “important concern” in his country, because people bought “something that was not beef,” but one must first ascertain the facts, without speculating. Asked to comment the fact that horsemeat was found labelled as beef at processing facilities in the UK, Martin Harris said that British authorities, too, are making thorough investigations.
Also, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos stated yesterday in a press conference that he appreciates the Romanian authorities’ reaction in this case adding that to him it seems normal for a member state not to be accused and its credibility not to be affected based solely on mere words and press speculations.
He pointed out that he had the same reactions two years ago in the infected cucumbers case, when some member states were unjustly accused by other EU states. “I appreciated the fact that Romania immediately took the case, even without being officially notified by any European court or institution, it conducted the verification based on the elements it had, it publicly and directly presented to the member states the results of the verifications. I know Minister Constantin also had phone conversations with several colleagues from the member states. The transparency shown is a first element that should give him the credibility that he is able to manage such a situation,” Ciolos stated.
At the same time, he underlined that he was only informed by Romanian official on the developments and verifications conducted, more details being expected at the reunion that would have been taken yesterday afternoon in Brussels, a reunion set to be attended by European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg and the member states’ ministers of agriculture and food safety. The reunion will analyze up-to-date information and the measures called for.  In the European Parliament, the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D) requested a debate on the issue next Monday (18 February) in the committee on the environment, public health and food safety and said they would continue with a “campaign for honest food labelling”. Linda McAvan, a British MEP and the S&D’s spokesperson on food safety said: “This scandal raises serious questions about the traceability of food, and the integrity of the meat supply chain.” But the European Commission seems to believe the horsemeat scandal is a straightforward case of fraud, which can be settled in court.
UK slaughterhouses raided as Europe’s horse meat scandal widens
At any rate, new revelations have appeared in the horse meat scandal. British police raided a slaughterhouse and meat firm in two different corners of Britain on Tuesday in connection with the growing horse meat scandal, according to npr.org. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has shut down Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, while it investigates allegations that it supplied horse carcasses to a meat business in Wales. Officers from West Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys police accompanied the FSA as they seized meat and paperwork from the Yorkshire abattoir and Farmbox Meats Ltd in Llandre, Aberystwyth, news.sky.com reports. The FSA and police are looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold, which were in fact horse. The FSA has suspended operations at both sites while it investigates the first suspected instance of a UK abattoir passing off horsemeat as beef.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has announced it is clearing the shelves of its Essential British Frozen Beef Meatballs after pork was detected in tests on two batches. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he expects tough action to be taken against any business that has broken the law. “This is absolutely shocking. It’s totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horsemeat as beef.I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity.”, he said.
Hollande:  French food sector might be hurt
French President Francois Hollande warned on Wednesday that the horsemeat scandal engulfing Europe could seriously damage the country’s frozen food sector. His comments came as European farming ministers and the European commissioner for health were set to meet in Brussels amid growing anger and recriminations over mislabelled meat products, ndtv.com reports. “The president underlines that it is a serious affair in relation to consumer confidence and potentially serious for the consequences for the French sector,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said. France and Britain have confirmed that frozen lasagne contained horsemeat.

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