Horsemeat scandal health fears

Ministers are facing calls from MPs for more testing of processed meat amid fears that beef products contaminated with horse meat could contain substances harmful to humans.

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Vets and owners drawn into horsemeat conspiracy

Food Standards Agency (FSA) Chief Executive Catherine Brown has drawn vets and horse owners into the conspiracy behind horsemeat containing bute getting into the food chain.

Ms Brown highlighted that both had to sign horse passports if an animal was treated with the drug to ensure they were not sold on for human consumption.

Horsemeat is prepared at horse butchery.
Horse passports aim to prevent animals treated with bute entering the food chain. Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender

"If both these people have done the right thing, horses with bute in don't make their way into the food chain," she said. "Someone has always broken the rules".

Previously the FSA said testing for bute is a "good indicator" of whether an animal was legally slaughtered.

When asked whether it would be fair to assume that six percent of the 9,000 horse carcasses she said were exported from Britain every year - which amounts to 540 animals - contained bute, Ms Brown replied, "That seems as reasonable a basis for making an estimate as any other".

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'Rapid transfer of information' to tackle meat scandal

A major priority is closer co-ordination between us and Europol is the appropriate agency because it responds to requests from nation states.

It is quite clear that we also need a much more effective and rapid transfer of information on this, and that was agreed.

What was clear (at the meeting) was the absolute unity of purpose of the member states to get to the bottom of this. We do not know exactly what has gone wrong. Investigations are ongoing. We do not yet know detail of any of these incidents. We've not got to bottom of any of them.

This is a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public. It looks like it has gone beyond incompetence, and now looks as if it is criminal.

– Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary

Three-month, EU-wide meat DNA testing regime

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson emerged from talks to announce a three-month, EU-wide DNA testing regime to trace horsemeat and to check processed meat on sale for "bute" - the powerful horse anti-inflammatory which could be a health risk if passed on to humans:

  • The idea is to launch the regime of checks in March with 2,500 random tests on processed food for horse DNA and 4,000 for bute. The results will be declared on April 15
  • The scale of DNA tests for April and May will be decided later
  • Ministers also agreed on tightening co-ordination between national authorities, using Europol, the Hague-based EU law enforcement agency whose normal remit is create a "safer Europe" by helping member states "in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism"

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Horsemeat scandal reaches Switzerland and Germany

Swiss supermarket chain Coop has found horsemeat in its own-brand lasagne, which was supplied by Comigel - the French food supplier at the heart of the scandal in Britain.

Growing revelations about the use of horsemeat in products labelled beef have raised questions about the safety of the European food supply chain and prompted governments to send out a European Union-wide alert.

Meat samples are being tested for traces of horse meat in Germany, as a precaution. Credit: EUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Switzerland's Coop had already withdrawn the suspect lasagne from its freezers earlier in the week for tests, which confirmed today the products contained horse meat.

The news comes as Germany announced it was investigating a consignment of beef lasagne sent from Luxembourg to an unnamed retailer in North Rhine-Westphalia on suspicion it might contain horsemeat.

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