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Horse meat scandal: From the horse's mouth: experts views from across Europe

15 February 2013

It all started when the Irish Food Standard Authority realised, mid-January, that some of the burgers sold in the country (and in the UK) contained about 29% of equine DNA, upon testing. This was much more than could not be accounted for by cross contamination in a meat factory. Tracing the meat back through complex supply chain, the manufacturer pointed the finger at a meat producer in Poland. At the time of writing, this possible source of contamination has not been confirmed. Doubt remains, particularly because Ireland has been known for poor traceability of its own horse meat aimed at export, which was found to have falsified passports. 

This issue then became a Europe wide concern when routine testing in the UK, in early February, led the UK Food Standards Agency to confirm that the meat content of beef lasagne recalled by Findus had tested positive for more than 60% horse meat. And further DNA testing is now underway for other types of meat.

Tracking the origin of that meat in the food supply chain started from the meals manufacturing plant in Luxembourg, back to the two main suppliers in France, via Dutch and Cypriot meat brokers, all the way back to a Romanian slaughterhouse. A recent ban on horse carriage on Romanian road has been reported as being a possible reason for an influx of equine meat in the legal Romanian meat circuit. As of mid-February, the French anti-fraud squad suspects that the Romanian horse meat might have been re-labelled as beef by one of the French supply chain intermediaries.

But further testing has since revealed that horse meat carcass exported by the UK to France contained a veterinary medicine called ‘bute’, rendering the meat unsuitable for human consumption. The EU has since ordered a campaign of 2,500 random DNA tests on processed beef and further 4,000 tests for ‘bute’ to be concluded mid-April.

Now, brings you an in-depth analysis of this issue though expert opinion replaced in their cultural context through the following stories:

  • Editorial: Consumers confidence crashes on the tip of an EU-wide fraud iceberg
  • Mona Elena Popa – Complexity is the food chain’s weakest link 
    According to a Romanian expert, fraud could have happened at any stage of this very complex supply chain.
  • Marek Zadernowski – When one size food rule does not fit all in Europe 
    Variation in the interpretation of regulations weakens the system, comments Polish food safety expert.
  • Ragnar Löfstedt – To restore trust, food risk needs to be clear like water 
    To rebuild public trust in regulators and industry, a risk communication strategy is needed, says UK-based risk specialist. 
  • Philippe Baralon – Anti-fraud systems could still be improved 
    A French food industry expert looks at the horse meat fraud in its historical context and suggests how the fraud prevention system could be improved. 
  • Alex Richardson – Good foods make bad commodities 
    We need to be more considerate of the food we eat, as ingredients found in processed food have been linked to a number of diseases, according to British nutrition specialist.
  • Clare Hall – Who are the trusted sources of food safety information? 
    The public perception of who can provide safe food is evolving all the time, says UK-based social scientist.

Attached files

  • Fake_horse_450x320

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