Food fraud measures from the European Commission after the horse meat scandal have ‘changed nothing on the ground’, according to a consumer group.
BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation) said one year on from the horse meat scandal EU promises have ‘fallen flat’ and another scandal could easily happen tomorrow.
The European Commission published its commitments in an Action Plan in March 2013. Apart from testing results (published in April), three other measures are on hold or still in debate.
Unannounced audits and higher fines
More unannounced controls and higher fines are being debated at the EU Parliament and Council next month and tackling food fraud with a network and IT alert tool is being developed.
BEUC said audits need to be unannounced and financial penalties need to be higher for fraudsters.
They added that current fines are not enough to deter food fraud and inspections need to remain separate so that independence is not compromised.
Origin labelling for processed meat was also being compromised as a Commission report stacks arguments against, said BEUC.
FoodQualityNews.com has contacted the European Commission for comment and is awaiting response.
Monique Goyens, director general of The European Consumer Organisation, said the horse meat scandal was a wake-up call.
“These incidents were only the latest in a long line, which shows the current system is too permissive.
“The measures announced by the Commission to better shield consumers from food fraud have changed nothing on the ground. One year on, another ‘horsegate’ could easily make the headlines tomorrow.”
Goyens said greater transparency of the food chain is the remedy to the reeling consumer confidence in the food sector.
“Clearer labels and tougher controls need to be enacted to make manufacturers more liable for what they put in our food,” she said.
“We need higher financial penalties for those businesses who take risks, while independent inspections should remain the norm.”
Member States budget cuts
She cited an example of meat from lab horses that were used to produce vaccines entered the food chain in France revealed last month.
“Events like this prove fraud remains prevalent, yet many Member States continue to slash food control budgets. Food label checks in the UK dropped by 16.2% as a result of such cutbacks.
“By piling up arguments against origin labelling for processed meals, the Commission has ignored the 90% of consumers who want to know where their meat comes from.
“Everyone, from industry to consumers, can gain from a stricter, clearer and more trustworthy food supply chain. It is the right time to act, so what is the EU waiting for?”
FSA results negative
Meanwhile, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) published the third quarterly report of results from the testing of beef products for horse meat or horse DNA this week.
No results found horse meat/DNA at or above the 1% reporting threshold.
The report includes 6,069 new results, of which 3,333 were submitted by ABP Food Group.
38,473 beef results tested for horse meat/DNA have been submitted by industry to the FSA since 15 February 2013 with 47 positive results.