MPs say horsemeat discoveries "tip of the iceberg"

LONDON Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:42pm GMT

1 of 7. A laboratory worker of the Official Food Control Authority of the Canton Bern holds frozen beef lasagne in the laboratory in Bern February 14, 2013. The samples of meat in the beef lasagne were tested for the presence of horse meat as a precaution after Swiss supermarket chain Coop has found horsemeat in its own-brand lasagne, which has the same French supplier, Comigel, at the heart of a scandal in Britain.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Lauener

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LONDON (Reuters) - Discoveries so far of horsemeat in products sold as beef are likely to be the "tip of the iceberg", a parliamentary report into the scandal said on Thursday.

"The scale of contamination emerging in the meat supply chain is breathtaking," said Anne McIntosh, a legislator who chairs the cross-party Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which published the report. "More revelations will doubtless come to light in the UK and across the European Union."

Growing revelations about the use of horsemeat in products labelled beef have raised questions about the safety of the European food supply chain and prompted governments to send out a European Union (EU)-wide alert.

The EU's health chief said on Wednesday all companies that have handled falsely-labelled horsemeat were under suspicion, adding that the European Commission was considering strengthening EU rules on product labelling.

The British parliamentary report concluded there were strong signs horsemeat had been intentionally substituted for beef.

"British consumers have been cynically and systematically duped in pursuit of profit by elements within the food industry," it said.

The issue first came to light on January 15 when routine tests by Irish authorities discovered horsemeat in beef burgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer.

Concern grew last week when the British unit of frozen foods group Findus began recalling its beef lasagne on advice from its French supplier, Comigel, after tests showed concentrations of horsemeat ranging from 60 to 100 percent.

UNABLE TO RESPOND

"While this is primarily a food labelling issue, the suggestion of fraud on a massive scale, suggests that measures must be put in place now to prevent any further contaminated meat entering the food chain," the report said.

It said Tesco and other major retailers had let consumers down by selling contaminated products, while regulator the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the government had been caught flat-footed by the scandal and unable to respond effectively.

The report said the British government needed to find the right balance between affordable food prices and regulations that ensure transparency and quality.

It recommended the FSA be given statutory powers to require producers to undertake testing and wants the agency to undertake a broader spectrum of testing for products found to have the highest levels of contamination, to provide assurances they do not contain other non-bovine DNA or substances that could be harmful to human health.

It said all results must be reported to the FSA, whether mandated by the Agency or carried out independently.

"The consumer cannot be left to face a Catch-22 where they can either pay for food that complies with the highest standards of traceability, labelling and testing, or accept that they cannot trust the provenance and composition of the foods they eat," said McIntosh.

(Additional reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by David Holmes)

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Comments (6)
EssexInvestor wrote:
The probability of more discoveries seems certain but unless she knows something she has not told us, what evidence id there that what we know already is but a tiny fraction of what will be found (“tip of the iceberg”).

Could this be grandstanding by a politician?

Please note also that the horsemeat is not really the problem as it is, so far as we know, no threat to human health.

The problem is and remains a failure to control what is in the manufactured food products and (possible through such ignorance) a failure to accurately label the food.

The normal law should take its course with suitable commercial damages and criminal trials for fraud where appropriate. When politicians start taking over you know that fudge is in the air and their friends will get off. By the way, when UK beef was said to pose a serious threat to human health the French and others banned it; now that French made food products have been found to contain undisclosed ingredients, should we not ban all French foods until the issue is resolved? If not, why not – what else are they sending us?

Feb 14, 2013 9:03am GMT  --  Report as abuse
allritejack wrote:
It just proves the point that the massive EU bureaucracy of multiple thousands and dozens of statutory, money siphoning agencies, do absolutely nothing to protect the public from anything. Rather they are just a serious impediment to growth and a major contributor to the ongoing decline of the middle class.

Feb 14, 2013 9:19am GMT  --  Report as abuse
SteveSi wrote:
To my mind this is NOT a labelling issue but a serious health issue and it is not just about horse meat. Who is to say that brains and spinal column tissue is not also going into our food? If the processing plants and abattoirs are not inspected for the type of meat, they are not being inspected for hygiene, EU regulations or anything else!
How can I be sure that what I buy from the supermarket is OK to eat?
I want a logo on every meat product that says it’s source is fully traceable and the product is regularly tested for content and safety.

Feb 14, 2013 10:39am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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