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Testing times for the European beef trade

Samples of minced meat are tested for the presence of horse meat as a precaution, in Germany. Photo: Reuters

Tonight the EU is talking about tens of thousands of new tests. These will run alongside the thousands already under way in the UK. There will be huge expense to the public purse - the EU Commissioner tonight said it would be about 400 Euros per test.

There is very limited capacity in labs capable of running these DNA tests in the UK, so the labs in Europe are now being used by big UK retailers and suppliers to do their checks. After tonight's EU announcement those labs will be swamped - it is bound to lead to back-logs.

And even after this avalanche of tests, we will only have tested for the presence of one species (horse) in one type of meat product (processed beef). The DNA test can't scan for all possible contamination - it can only do one at a time, in this case horse. There are strong grounds to suggest other meats supplies could also be subject to similar problems - so even when we finish all these, there are certain to be demands for yet more tests.

This is far more than a new round of Europe-wide tests, it is the start of a whole new era of scrutiny over our food supplies. It will come at a cost - and you can be sure that either as taxpayers or as customers - we will end up being hit.

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