The European Commission has called on the EU’s 27 members states to test for horse DNA in beef products.
Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, has set out plans for tests to be carried out to see if food containing beef includes horsemeat.
Borg also said member states should test for traces of horse drug phenylbutazone, or bute, in establishments that handle horsemeat. Bute can harm humans in rare cases.
The plans will be discussed at a special meeting of the EU’s standing committee of the food chain and animal health.
However, Borg said: “This coordinated control plan will have to be done by all Member States but in proportion to the size of their domestic market, so as to restore the confidence of all European consumers. I would urge Member States to step up their investigations and circulate, without delay, any new information, so we can establish the full facts of this issue as early as possible, and thus reassure European consumers.”
The announcement was made after a meeting in Brussels among member states and European Commission officials to discuss the escalating horsemeat crisis.
In the UK, one of the countries at the centre of the saga, the country’s Food Standards Agency is set to receive the results of industry-wide tests on beef products tomorrow.
The presence of horsemeat in beef products first emerged last month. Burgers made by Ireland’s ABP Food Group at three plants in Ireland and the UK and on sale at retailers including Tesco and Aldi were found to contain horsemeat, prompting recalls across the sector.
Last week, the scandal intensified when frozen food giant Findus recalled beef lasagne and other products on sale in the UK, France and Sweden after finding horsemeat in the meals.
Since then, retailers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland have recalled Findus products and lines made by the firm’s French supplier Comigel.
Whether the presence of horsemeat in beef products was a fraudulent act is as yet unclear. The French government has claimed the source of the horsemeat was two slaughterhouses in Romania. However, Bucharest has defended the firms, insisting the companies acted properly and did not mislabel the consignment. Romanian government ministers said the orders from the two slaughterhouses, which had been checked before export, had been for horse meat.