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Brussels calls for mandatory beef DNA tests across the EU

Tonio Borg wants 2,500 tests on beef products, and 1,500 on horsemeat products, to ascertain the extent of the labelling problem.

Simon Coveney speaks to reporters after convening today's short-notice meeting in Brussels.
Simon Coveney speaks to reporters after convening today's short-notice meeting in Brussels.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER responsible for agriculture has proposed two rounds of mandatory DNA tests in every EU member state to ascertain the extent of any possible mislabelling of horse meat as beef.

Tonio Borg will put the proposal to agriculture ministers in a formal meeting at the end of the month, after ministers from the affected countries attended a meeting convened by Simon Coveney, under Ireland’s EU presidency, in Brussels today.

The tests – to be carried out in two phases, with the first results due by mid-April – will see 2,500 European beef products undergo mandatory DNA testing for horse content, and 1,500 imported horsemeat samples tested for the dangerous equine medicine ‘bute’.

The Commission will share the cost of the tests, which will cost roughly €400 each.

Agriculture ministers have meanwhile asked the European transnational police network, Europol, to co-ordinate each country’s individual independent inquiries into the affair.

Europol will be approached tomorrow to discuss its role, with a formal role to be given to it when EU agriculture ministers hold another formal meeting at the end of the month.

“This is an EU-wide problem that needs an EU-wide solution,” Coveney told reporters after the meeting, stressing that despite the many fears about the safety of mislabelled foods, the current problems presented “no food safety issue”.

“All of the states that have tested positive for equine DNA… have tested negative for equine medicines like bute,” Coveney said.

Though there are adequate national and EU-wide laws against the wrongful labelling of food, Coveney said, “we need to find out who is responsible, how it happened, and we need to put systems in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

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Gavan Reilly

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