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"Fraudulent practices must be tackled to target the weakest links in the food supply chain": EU commissioner.

The horse meat 7: Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia test positive for horse DNA

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+

25-Jul-2014
Last updated on 28-Jul-2014 at 14:05 GMT

Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia have all tested positive for horse meat labelled as beef in the latest round of DNA tests conducted by the European Commission.

All 28 European Union member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland submitted samples of beef products between April and July 2014. Of the 2,622 tests carried out, 16 revealed positive traces of horse meat DNA. This worked out at 0.61% of the samples submitted, down from 4.6% in similar tests conducted last year.

The European Commission told FoodNavigator that it was now down to these seven member states to make use of their relevant "enforcement tools".

Health spokesperson Aikaterini Apostola said the Commission did not have details of the different measures being taken in each member state, but said it expected “that in all cases the competent authorities are tightening up controls on the operators concerned”.

“We know that in several cases further checks and tracing back are still ongoing to determine the origin of the raw material.”

As for the meat found to be incorrectly identified as beef, it said this had been “impounded or withdrawn from the market in some cases, or relabelled to correctly reflect its composition in other cases”.  

Meanwhile, EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg said: "Fraudulent practices must be tackled through joined-up efforts to target the weakest links in the food supply chain."

‘Significant improvement’

The Commission has hailed the results a “significant improvement compared to the situation one year ago, with only one case being reported through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) because of its potential cross-border implications”.  

In this case Apostola referred to the case of a frozen döner kebab found positive in Germany, with raw material from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

“Investigations on this case are being conducted by the German authorities,” she said.   

Press officer for German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ariane Girndt, refrained from giving further details on this incident but told us: "In Germany the 16 federal states are in charge of food controls and action taken within this field. In any case of infringement of food law they will be the ones who decide about the necessary action to be taken."

Commenting on the results, commissioner Borg said the findings "confirm that our collective efforts are bearing fruit and that increased controls to uncover food fraud are having real impact. Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and businesses in our food chain is vital for our economy given that the food sector is one of the EU's largest economic sectors".  

The Commission said the so called 'horse meat scandal' that hit European headlines in 2013 exposed the "complex nature of our globalised food supply chain", and demonstrated that "fraudsters were taking advantage of weaknesses in the system". 

Testing investment 

The UK's Food Standards Agency has been conducting its own quarterly surveys since the multi-state fraud was revealed. This week the agency released the results of its latest tests , which came back negative for all of the almost 6,000 meat products at or above a 1% level. 

Commenting on Finland's 100% negative results for its 50 samples tested, Jussi Peusa, senior inspector for the Finnish Food Safety Authority (EVIRA), said: "This is what the results should be. Consumers should be able to trust that the meat used as an ingredient in a product is from the species of animal stated on the packaging label and that the product contains no other meats." 

In the Commission's tests it said it had chosen not to repeat last year's residue testing due to the low level of samples that tested positive for this in 2013. 

Costs of the pan-EU tests were estimated at €145,440 in total with another €20,000 for laboratory coordinating of the test methodology - co-financed by the commission and 50% of the member states' expenses for lab testing.