Fabian Demicoli

Horsemeat issue : Update

 EU-wide testing plan for horsemeat DNA and phenylbutazone (an
anti-inflammatory drug used as a painkiller in veterinary medicine for pets and
horses) has revealed that less than 5 %
of the tested products had horse DNA and that about 0.5 % of the equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated
with phenylbutazone.

The purpose of the testing plan was:

to
detect the presence of unlabelled horsemeat of food destined for the end
consumer and marketed as containing beef through controls to be carried out,
mainly at retail level;

to
test for the possible presence of bute in horsemeat.

 

To that end, 7,259 tests were carried out by the competent
authorities in the 27 EU countries, of which 4,144 tested for the presence of
horsemeat DNA and 3,115 tested for the presence of phenylbutazone. Of those
tests, 193 revealed positive traces of horsemeat DNA (4.66%) and 16 showed
positive traces of phenylbutazone (0.51%).

Member States reported another 7,951 tests for the presence
of horsemeat DNA performed by food business operators (producers, processors
and distributors). Of these, 110 contained horsemeat DNA (1.38%). The positive
samples found in relation to horsemeat DNA combined with the very low levels of
bute detected represents a small part of the overall production in EU.

Commissioner Borg has declared that these findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not
of food safety and that restoring the trust and confidence of consumers
and trading partners in the food chain is now of vital importance for the EU
economy given as the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU. 

Next steps

The Commission and Member States will meet on 19 April to
discuss whether the plan should be extended.

The situation in Malta

The authorities found no presence of horsemeat in beef
products in Malta, according to an EU-wide report issued this week.

The EU said these results correspond with the joint statement
published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European
Medicines Agency (EMA) yesterday,  which concluded that the risks
associated to phenylbutazone were of "low concern for consumers due to the
low likelihood of exposure and the overall low likelihood of toxic effects and
that, on a given day, the probability of a consumer being both susceptible to
developing aplastic anaemia and being exposed to phenylbutazone was estimated
to range approximately from 2 in a trillion to 1 in 100 million."

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