Food Law News - EU - 2013

Council Meeting, 25-26 February 2013

MEAT - Mislabelling of processed beef products: Discussions at Council meeting

The following is an extract from the minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting:

At the request of the Presidency, the Commission gave an overview of the current situation regarding food products containing horsemeat mislabelled as beef (6644/13).

Many member states welcomed the testing programme proposed by the Commission, which had been subsequently endorsed by all member states and adopted as a Commission recommendation. The tests, which have already been started in many member states, give an idea of the extent of the problem. On this basis, several delegations called for the Commission to anticipate the report on labelling of the origin of meat used as an ingredient of processed meat products, whose publication was scheduled for December this year, and considered that such mandatory labelling of origin could contribute positively to the re-establishment of consumers' confidence. Others noted that the current cases of fraud would not have been prevented by more legislation.

Following the discovery in January of the presence of horse traces in beef burgers in Ireland, several other member states subsequently found horse meat in a range of processed beef products. Very specific tests had uncovered what appears to be a widespread fraud and mislabelling of certain processed products resulting in consumers being misled.

On 13 February, an informal ministerial meeting was called by the Presidency, firstly to establish the state of play in the ongoing investigations in the member states concerned, and secondly to establish how to improve the cooperation between member states in their response to this fraud. On that occasion, the Commission had outlined a proposed recommendation for a programme of tests to assess the extent of the use of horse meat in beef products.

The conditions under which the tests should be carried out were defined more precisely at an extraordinary meeting of the Standing committee on the food chain and animal health (SCOFCAH) on 15 February 2013 where they were unanimously endorsed. The Commission recommendation and the related Commission implementing decision regarding the co-financing of the testing programme were published in the Official Journal of the EU on 21.2.2013 (2013/99/EU, 2013/98/EU).

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