More products were found to contain horsemeat in France than any other EU country, according to results published by The European Commission today (16 April).

Brussels called on the EU’s 27 member states to test for horse DNA in beef products in February at the height of the contamination scandal that swept across Europe.

France carried out the third-highest number of tests – behind Germany and Italy. However, from France’s 353 tests, some 47 were deemed “non-compliant”, the Commission data showed.

According to Commission data, 13.3% of tests carried out by France returned positive. This is well above the EU average, which the Commission said was under 5%. In Germany, 3.3% of tests returned positive, while in Italy 3.9% of tests returned positive. On the high end of the scale, Greece found 12.5% of samples taken contained horsemeat. 

Across the EU, a total of 7,259 tests were carried out. The tests also looked at whether products contained horse drug phenylbutazone, or bute. The UK, where in February officials introduced a system to test every horse carcass for bute, had the highest number of samples of horsemeat containing the drug.

Of the 4,144 tests for horsemeat, 193 found positive traces of the ingredient. Sixteen of the bute tests found the drug, representing around 0.5% contained bute.

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“Today’s findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety. Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labelling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU,” EU Commissioner for Health and Consumers Toni Borg said.

The Commission will meet member state officials on Friday to discuss whether the EU monitoring to investigate fraudulent practices should be extended.

Brussels is also looking at plans to strengthen controls and to introduce “dissuasive financial sanctions on food fraudsters”.