Scandal of horsemeat in food for human consumption


7 March 2013

Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL)


Europe has been shaken by a recent scandal involving hundreds or even thousands of tonnes of horsemeat being used to produce food for human consumption. Many companies in the food sector have now withdrawn their products and thousands of consumers have been affected. The greatest concern has been caused by the possible consumption of horsemeat from animals treated with phenylbutazone.

In countries where it is regularly consumed, horsemeat is normally considered an expensive commodity and its presence in hamburgers and precooked foods hence gives rise to justifiable concerns as to the quality thereof.

In view of this:

What has been revealed by meat quality investigations? Was the food in question found to contain scraps and animal organs? Faced with the choice of more stringent health inspections for the protection of consumers on the one hand and the elimination of unnecessary obstacles on the other, to which does the Commission consider that greater importance should be attached?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

18 April 2013    

Following the first findings of the fraud on unlabelled horsemeat in beef products immediate action has been taken. Member States are carrying out DNA testing for horsemeat in beef products and testing for the absence of phenylbutazone residues in horsemeat in accordance with the Commission Recommendation adopted on 19 February 2013(1).

These tests continued in March. Positive results are communicated immediately and an overview of the results is expected by 15 April 2013. The Commission will produce a report.

The situation does not point to a public health or food safety crisis. The issue remains one of fraudulent labelling not one of safety. Problems lie in the implementation of legislation and not in the legislation itself, but as with any food-related affair, lessons must be learnt and, if necessary, appropriate changes are to be made in the light of experience gained.

The Commission does not see any contradiction between enforcement of EU rules, strict health inspections and the elimination of unnecessary obstacles. Specific actions for fighting food fraud, improving testing programmes or modify the current rules for example about horse passports are being discussed with the Member States.

(1)    Commission Recommendation 2013/99/EU of 19 February 2013 on a coordinated control plan with a view to establish the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of certain foods (OJ L 48, 21.2.2013).