Food Law News - EU - 2013

Commission Midday Express, 19 February 2013

MEAT - Horse meat: Commission adopts control plan to detect fraud in the marketing of foods

Today, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation for an EU coordinated plan on controls to investigate fraudulent practices and to enhance consumer confidence following the recent mislabelling of beef products containing horse meat. The EU will grant financial support to Member States which carry out this plan at a rate of 75%.

The controls are to start immediately, running for one month and may be extended for a further two months. The plan includes two actions:

1) Establishment of the presence of unlabelled horse meat in food: Over the last days, official controls in some Member States revealed fraud in the marketing of foods. Certain foods contained horse meat that was not declared in the list of ingredients and their description referred solely to the presence of beef. The plan, foresees controls, mainly at retail level, of foods destined for the final consumer and marketed as containing beef, to detect the presence of unlabelled horse meat (indicative total number of 2250 samples across the EU ranging from 10 to 150 per Member State). Under current EU rules, it is considered misleading and in breach of legislation to suggest the presence of beef meat where, in fact, other types of meat are also present. In the same way, labelling of food containing horse meat is not in line with EU food labelling legislation, if the presence of horse meat is not listed in the ingredients.

2) Detection of possible residues of phenylbutazone in horse meat: the plan foresees the testing of 1 sample for every 50 tonnes of horse meat. A Member State will carry out a minimum of 5 tests. Phenylbutazone is a veterinary medicinal product whose use in food producing animals, including horses, is illegal. The plan provides for regular reporting of the results of the controls to the Commission, such as information on sampling, type of analysis and follow-up controls. For positive findings of residues in phenylbutazone in horse meat, information on the country where the animals concerned were certified for slaughter will also be included in the report. Member States have to submit their first report on 15 April 2013. If the testing proves positive however, Member States must report the findings immediately. All this information will be included in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) so that they can be immediately used by Member States' authorities.

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