EU ministers, health officials gather for talks on horsemeat row
AFPBRUSSELS--European farming ministers and the European commissioner for health were due to meet in Brussels Wednesday amid growing anger and recriminations over mislabeled meat products.
February 14, 2013, 12:36 am TWN
The EU meeting comes a day after British police searching for the source of horsemeat in kebabs and burgers raided two meat plants, the first such operation since the scandal spread across Europe.
The Brussels meeting takes place amid suspicions of links to organized crime and public fears over health, and a day after France became the second European country after Britain to confirm that frozen lasagne contained horse meat.
Supermarkets in Switzerland and the Netherlands pulled more ready-made meals from the shelves as a precaution.
Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Tonio Borg will host Wednesday's talks as anger grows over the EU's failure to act more quickly.
A spokesman for Borg said Tuesday it was too early to require labeling on meat used in processed foods but France's junior agriculture minister Guillaume Garot called for precise labeling on the origin of meat in ready-made dishes.
And Interbev, an association representing the French cattle and meat industry, denounced the EU's failure to act. Both consumers and professionals wanted swift action on better labeling, it argued in a statement.
In Britain, police and officials from the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday raided a slaughterhouse in northern England and a meat-producing factory in Wales. They shut both sites and seized all meat there.
The FSA said the Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, in the county of West Yorkshire, was believed to have supplied horse carcasses to Farmbox Meats in Aberystwyth, Wales.
“The agency and the police are looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold when they were in fact horse,” the agency said.
Andrew Rhodes, operations director of the FSA, said he had ordered an audit of abattoirs that produce horsemeat in Britain when the scandal arose last month “and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be a blatant misleading of consumers.”
British environment minister Owen Paterson said he expected the “full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity.”
British supermarket Waitrose pulled frozen beef meatballs from its shelves after tests showed they may contain traces of pork, not listed as an ingredient.
The raids on the British meat premises opened a new front in the pan-European search for the source of the horsemeat: the allegations had so far focused on Romania.