Horse meat food scare spreads
Horse meat food scare spreads
Mary Gearin reported this story on Monday, February 11, 2013 08:22:00
TONY EASTLEY: Britain is facing its biggest food scare since mad cow disease and it’s spreading to Europe.
The UK is waiting on tests to see just how many beef products in the food chain might be contaminated with horse meat and if the products carry any risk to humans.
In the past month there’s been a string of revelations about pre-prepared and frozen beef items reaching Britain, Ireland and France. It’s raising questions about the integrity of the European food chain.
The British Government suspects organised crime might be behind the meat substitution.
Europe correspondent Mary Gearin:
MARY GEARIN: Britons sitting down to their Sunday dinners may well have paused over their plates of beef if they were made from imported frozen or ready-made products.
The UK’s environment secretary Owen Paterson says what started as potentially isolated cases of bad labelling and testing could become a case of organised crime.
OWEN PATERSON: It’s completely wrong that a British consumer should go to a store, buy a product clearly marked beef and find that it actually contains a cheaper product – horse. So this is actually fraud on the public. And I personally, I think it’s either a case of gross incompetence amongst suppliers further down the chain or, and I’ve got reason to believe this is looking increasingly likely, it looks like this is an international crime.
MARY GEARIN: Food retailers have been told to carry out their own tests on all processed beef products after it was found some of the Findus brand of beef lasagne products contained up to 100 per cent horsemeat.
Findus is now considering legal action against its French-based suppliers who in turn are pointing the finger at Romanian abattoirs.
The Romanian government has launched its own investigation.
This all follows the first cases in Ireland three weeks ago – 10 million low price burgers and last week, frozen spaghetti and lasagne meals made by a French food manufacturer.
Jose Bove, a Green member of the European parliament, says the issue how hard it is to ensure food safety across the continent.
JOSE BOVE: It’s a European problem now and it’s a problem of how these things happen. I believe it’s because there’s a real net here organised to change the origin of meat to make more money.
MARY GEARIN: The British government has now ordered its Food Standards Authority to conduct DNA tests every three months. But it’s ruled out a temporary ban on imports, saying it would break European Union rules unless there’s a proven health risk.
That’s a pertinent question in a country still deeply scarred by the mad cow crisis.
Chairwoman of Britain’s House of Commons food and rural affairs committee Anne McIntosh has called for suspension of meat product imports and questioned the response from British food safety authorities.
ANNA MCINTOSH: What worries me about – there’s been a delay in the testing, the FSA Ireland started the testing already in November. They’re already ahead of this. I understand that there’s not been much testing of meat for the last year. I think only 800 tests were done in the last year.
MARY GEARIN: While Scotland Yard has met with the food safety officials it hasn’t launched an official inquiry yet.
This is Mary Gearin in London for AM.