BRUSSELS – Results of tests for horse meat in the European Union revealed that less than 5 percent of the tested products contained horse DNA and approximately 0.5 percent of the horse carcasses tested were contaminated with phenylbutazone, also known as 'bute'.
Across the EU, 4,144 tests were conducted under the equine DNA program; of that number 193 were positive. Additionally, there were 7,951 tests for equine DNA carried out by food business operators across the EU, of which 110 were positive. The European Commission reported that the EU program for bute testing found 16 positives from 3,115 tests.
"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 labeling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU" said Tonio Borg, commissioner for Health and Consumers. "In the coming months, the commission will propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned."
France had the most positive tests for illegal horse meat labeled as beef than any other EU Member State. The official DNA tests showed that of 353 tests conducted in France, 47 tested positive for horse DNA, a rate of 13 percent. In Greece, 288 samples were tested with 36 positive results, a rate of 12.5 percent.
In February French authorities accused Spanghero, a French meat processor, of knowingly mislabeling horse meat as beef and selling it to large distributors in frozen meals. French authorities temporarily suspended Spanghero's operations in February before allowing the company to resume production of ground meat, sausage and other products. However, Spanghero's frozen meat storage operations remained closed. The company has denied the allegations of wrongdoing.
Germany carried out tests on 878 samples, and 29 returned positive results, a rate of 3.3 percent. Ireland, where the horse meat scandal first broke, returned no positive results for horse meat.
“The results published today will be considered by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health to determine what further action at EU level is required,” said Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. “The level of testing in Ireland clearly went beyond what was required at EU level and, combined with the fact that the official control regime here uncovered this problem, shows our commitment to maintaining the world-wide reputation of Irish food.
“Ireland will continue to show leadership on this issue, both nationally and in Europe,” he added.
The European Commission and Member State experts will meet on April 19 to discuss whether to extend the EU's coordinated monitoring plan on controls used to investigate food fraud and to enhance consumer confidence following the recent mislabeling of beef products containing horse meat.