Scandal of horsemeat found in processed products

1 March 2013    
Sophocles Sophocleous (S&D) 


The recent scandal of horsemeat found in processed products/ready meals is perhaps the most serious food scandal Europe has ever seen. It highlights the need for new rules to improve the safety, monitoring and traceability of products. Inaccurate labelling is blatantly misleading to consumers, whom we have a duty to protect. We need to restore consumer confidence.

Stricter controls, harsh penalties for producers, traders and manufacturers and compulsory labelling of the country of origin of meat products are all measures that will help to prevent such scandals in the future.

In view of the above, will the Commission say:

How does it intend to ensure that legislation is applied by all the Member States? Does the Commission intend to verify the application of legislation at regular intervals?

Could a control/coordination centre be set up between the Member States to prevent such occurrences in future?

Does it intend to penalise Member States which fail to apply the legislation and, if so, how?


Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

12 April 2013    

The responsibility for enforcing food chain legislation lies with Member States(1), which are required to establish a system of official controls to verify compliance by operators with requirements deriving therefrom and sanction non-compliances. The Commission regularly monitors delivery by the Member States of their control duties, including through on-the-spot audits. As the guardian of the Treaties, the Commission will take appropriate measures when it becomes aware of a failure by a Member State to systematically enforce EU provisions, including the launching of infringement procedures in accordance with Article 258 TFEU.

In the case referred to by the Honourable Member, the official controls systems established by the Member States have allowed them to quickly identify violations of applicable rules. Notwithstanding this, the forthcoming proposal on official controls will aim at further strengthening the existing system, including as regards sanctions.

The Commission is currently considering how best to address the need to restore consumer confidence by strengthening tools and mechanisms for the fight against food fraud and the enforcement of food chain rules. An action plan mapping initiatives in five key areas (food fraud, testing programmes, horse passports, official controls, origin labelling) has recently been shared with the European Parliament and the Member States.

(1)    Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules, OJ L 165, 30.4.2004, p. 1.