BRUSSELS – European Union nations convened an emergency meeting at EU headquarters to address horse meat being sold as beef — a problem one official said was a widespread fraud and mislabeling of processed beef products.

Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, chaired the meeting with EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg and Ministers from other member states affected the horse meat scandal. The Ministers shared information about the extent of the problem and steps to taken to identify the suspect point in the supply chain.

Commissioner Borg recommended an EU-wide three month program of random DNA testing of processed beef products and testing for horse meat residues in slaughterhouses. The proposal will be brought to EU member states March 1-31. Roughly 2,500 samples of processed beef products will be taken across the EU, and another 4,000 samples taken at slaughterhouses (2,500 EU horse meat and 1,500 non-EU horse meat). The samples will be tested for phenythbutazone, or 'bute'.

The EU plans to publish the findings of the first month’s testing on April 15 following their presentation to the Commission. EU members will consider further measures based on the results of the control program.
“The FSAI survey has shown Ireland to be at the forefront of controls on food production and signifies the importance placed on ensuring, not only safe food for consumers, but equally on ensuring the integrity of the food supply chain,” Coveney said. “Consumers should rightly expect not to be misled by inaccurate labeling and must have confidence in knowing what they are eating.”

“Ireland will continue to give leadership in this area and will work with our EU partners to ensure new consumer assurance measures, including increased testing and more accurate labeling, are introduced.”
Representatives from member states also recommended that the investigation should be coordinated by the EU’s Europol law enforcement agency.

Millions of frozen hamburgers and frozen meals have been recalled across the European Union. Ireland found horse meat in frozen burgers in January. More recently, Germany reported a shipment of tainted frozen meals, and Norway pulled some products from stores.