Horsemeat crisis: destination of edible products

25 February 2013    
Diogo Feio (PPE)



The discovery of horsemeat in several products sold by various companies means that these products must be taken off the shelves, as their actual contents do not match those advertised on the labels. Presumably, however, most of these foodstuffs are perfectly edible and it is a shame to have them destroyed, given the urgent food shortages in several European countries.

— Can the Commission assess the volume of products containing horsemeat that have been withdrawn from the market?

— Can it confirm that most of these products do not pose a public health risk? Are they at risk of being destroyed, thereby increasing food waste within the EU?

— Given that several social institutions, families and individuals might not object to eating horsemeat, is it prepared to intervene with the Member States and the companies involved to prevent them from simply destroying products withdrawn from the market and to have them donate edible products to institutions, families and individuals (especially those most in need)?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

18 April 2013    

It is not possible to give accurate data on the amounts of products containing horsemeat that have been withdrawn from the market. Based on the state of play on 26th February 2013 of the Commission's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) about 3600 tonnes of processed foods were implicated in the adulteration and were withdrawn from the market(1). Taking into account that in addition more than 20 notifications where received by the RASFF since then, it is likely that already substantially more than the reported 3600 tonnes are withdrawn in total.

There are no public health risks in relation to the horse meat fraud reported to the Commission's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.

EU food legislation(2) requires food business operators to withdraw a food in cases of its non-compliance with the food safety requirements. The Commission considers that if there is no safety problem concerning in particular harmful residues in the meat, the mis-labelled meat products can be re-labelled with the correct ingredients under the supervision of the competent authorities. Then these re-labelled meat products can be placed again on the market.

(1)    Caveat: it concerns factual information of what is reported in RASFF (and thus to be seen as a minimum) with quantities of prepared food extrapolated on the basis that around 20% of minced meat is used in a prepared dish.
(2)    Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1.