EU: Study shows spread of horse meat

EU horse meat test results are out

EU horse meat test results are out - Credit: PA

One in 20 beef products tested across the EU contained horse meat, new results show.

The tests on 7,000 samples also showed the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, or bute, was present in about half of the horse meat. Bute is banned for human use because in rare cases it causes severe side effects, but experts say there is little risk from consuming small amounts of the drug in horse meat.

European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said: “Today’s findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety.”

He said the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, would propose measures “to strengthen the controls along the food chain.”

The scandal broke in mid-January, when Ireland’s food safety watchdog announced that it had discovered traces of horse DNA in burger products sold by major British and Irish supermarkets. The mislabelled products came from Irish processor Silvercrest Foods, which withdrew 10 million burgers from store shelves.

Irish officials first blamed an imported powdered beef-protein additive used to pad out cheap burgers, then frozen blocks of slaughterhouse leftovers imported from Poland - an indication of the complexity of the food-supply chain that was about to be revealed to an alarmed European public.

Subsequently, traces of horse meat turned up across Europe in frozen supermarket meals such as burgers and lasagna, as well as in fresh beef pasta sauce, on restaurant menus, in school lunches and in hospital meals.

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Millions of products were pulled from store shelves in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and supermarkets and food suppliers were told to test processed beef products for horse DNA.

The results of the European Commission survey were drawn from 7,259 tests carried about by EU countries.

It said that 4,144 DNA tests on beef products for the presence of horse meat were conducted; 193 samples - 4.66% - tested positive. And 3,115 samples were tested for bute; 16 samples - 0.51%- showed traces of it.