Findus: food safety checks

13 February 2013    
Marc Tarabella (S&D)


When horsemeat was discovered in Findus-brand lasagne which were supposed to contain only beef, people wrongly pointed the finger at Europe’s food traceability system. In this specific case the problem does not lie with the system, and the ongoing investigation will determine who was ultimately responsible for the horsemeat scandal. However, food safety checks should be made more stringent so that we do not end up eating dog meat.

We are becoming increasingly reliant on checks conducted by food manufacturers themselves, since the national anti‐fraud and food safety authorities have fewer and fewer resources to carry out the systematic monitoring required, mainly as a result of budget cuts and, in many cases, a gradual reduction in staffing levels.

Whilst it is heartening that so many people have turned to Europe for solutions, the logical conclusion to be drawn from the Findus scandal is that there has been an over-reliance on self‐regulation in the food industry.

1. How does the Commission support national authorities in carrying out food safety checks?

2. The budgets of food safety authorities are shrinking every year. What view does the Commission take on this?

3. Does it intend to step up its support for them?

4. Will it take steps to ensure that proper checks are carried out in order to address the latest scandal posing a threat to food safety, which has highlighted the shortcomings of self‐regulation and the increasing ineffectiveness of national food safety authorities?

5. Can it put a figure on the number of cases of food fraud committed annually in Europe?

2 April 2013    
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

The control systems for enforcing food chain legislation lies with the Member States. However, the Commission supports and monitors delivery of the control systems through on the spot audits.

The Commission has been active — at both the political and technical levels — in coordinating the pending investigations in the Member States concerned to identify the prevalence of the fraud at issue as soon as possible. To this end, the Commission adopted a recommendation on a coordinated control plan(1) calling for EU-wide controls on foods marketed as containing beef to detect fraudulent labelling, and on horse meat to detect phenylbutazone. The plan is being co-financed by the Union at a rate of 75%.

The forthcoming proposal on official controls will strengthen existing controls by providing competent authorities with a more efficient legal framework and stronger enforcement tools to ensure compliance with EU rules.

On the basis of the information provided so far no risk for health has been identified.

The Commission does not keep statistcs on the cases of food fraud committed in Europe.

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