The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is considering commissioning an external review of its response to the horse meat crisis at a board meeting today (Wednesday).
The review would make recommendations to the June Board meeting on the capacity and capabilities of the FSA and any actions that should be taken to maintain or build them.
It would focus on the FSA’s response to any recent prior intelligence, communication to the public, parliament, and other stakeholders and the enforcement response in terms of the powers available.
It comes after the European Commission published test results on horse DNA and phenylbutazone (bute) yesterday as part of testing costing an estimated €2.5m.
Less than 5% of testing products contained horse meat and 0.5% were found to be contaminated with bute, according to the latest figures from 11 February to 4 April.
France, Greece, Germany and Italy reported the highest number of non-compliant samples while the UK and Ireland reported none over the threshold of 1% from the samples provided.
France had 47 samples testing positive for horse meat from 353 samples while Greece had 36 from 288 samples.
Italy announced 14 non-compliant samples, all in pre-packed meat from 361 samples and Germany said they had found 29 from 878 samples provided.
"Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labelling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU," said Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumers.
The Commission did not provide the percentage of horse meat in each positive sample so it is unknown how much may be deliberate substitution or accidental contamination.
7,259 tests were carried out by the authorities in the 27 EU countries, of which 4,144 were tested for the presence of horse meat DNA and 3,115 tested for the presence of bute.
193 revealed positive traces of horse meat DNA (4.66%) and 16 showed positive traces of bute (0.51%).
Member States reported another 7,951 tests for the presence of horse meat DNA performed by food business operators (producers, processors and distributors) and 110 contained horse meat DNA (1.38%).
The number of tests that were carried out to detect the extent of the mislabelling varied between 10-150 samples depending on the size of the country and their consumption habits.
The criteria for the bute sampling were one sample for every 50 tonnes of horsemeat with a minimum of five tests.
The UK reported 14 non-compliant samples out of 836 with the Czech Republic (eight samples), Ireland (840 samples) and Switzerland (117 samples) all reporting one positive test each.
The European Commission and Member State experts will meet again this Friday (19 April) to discuss whether the monitoring plan on controls to investigate fraudulent practices and enhance consumer confidence should be extended.
This week, David Heath, UK minister of state for Agriculture and Food, said food fraud was completely unacceptable.
“Consumers must have confidence in the food they buy and have every right to expect that food is correctly described.
“It is also right that any weaknesses in our food system and the controls it is subject to are identified and dealt with.”