Poland admits exporting suspect beef to ten EU countries

Footage from TVN24 news channel shows sick cows in a Polish slaughterhouse. [TVN24]

The European Commission will send a team of inspectors to Poland on Monday after a TV report showed sick cows being butchered for food in a Polish slaughterhouse.

Poland exported nearly three tons of beef from illegally slaughtered cattle to ten of its EU partners, the country’s chief veterinarian admitted on Thursday (31 January).

Pawel Niemczuk told reporters that the 2.7 tonnes of suspect beef sold to  other EU members was being recalled after authorities were able to trace it to buyers in Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

“The distribution lists have been established and the goods are being recalled,” he said, adding that some countries had already destroyed the meat.

Another seven tons of beef from illegally slaughtered cattle were sold to some 20 outlets in Poland, Niemczuk said.

Prosecutors launched a criminal probe into the case after Poland’s commercial TVN24 news channel aired footage of sick cows being abused and then butchered at a slaughterhouse in Kalinowo, a village some 100 kilometres northeast of the capital Warsaw.

The facility has been closed but EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said that a team of inspectors from Brussels were due to visit it next Monday.

Poland’s Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski called the case an “isolated incident”, adding that he had ordered inspections at slaughterhouses across the country.

The inhumane trade in European farm animals

The European Union’s animal welfare legislation is regarded as among the best in the world. But exported animals are no longer protected by EU transport or slaughter welfare laws once they leave its borders, writes Olga Kikou.

Video surveillance

Pawel Niemczuk, the chief veterinarian, said Polish authorities will install cameras in slaughterhouses and employ more health inspectors to prevent exports of contaminated beef to other EU countries.

“Video surveillance will be available 24 hours a day, but there should be someone with medical and veterinary knowledge that would (be able to) come and assess if the animals are unloaded in line with regulations,” Niemczuk said.

Poland will spend 120 million zlotys (€23.1 million) in the next three years to implement these changes, Polish National Veterinary Chamber spokesmen told reporters.

“Our neighbours were asking about details of actions we have taken. I have convinced most of the countries that this situation in Poland was an individual case… The (contaminated meat) is being voluntarily withdrawn,” Niemczuk said.

Avoiding milk losses with healthier cows

One in three dairy cows in Europe suffer from disease, causing more than five billion milk servings to be discarded annually, writes Ramiro Cabral.

Food processing plants received around 9,500 kg of suspect meat from the two companies, Niemczuk said at a news conference. Of that, 2,700 kilogrammes went to fellow EU countries including Sweden, France and Portugal, he said.

Romania’s veterinary and food safety authority said that no contaminated meat has been sold to consumers on the Romanian market.

Poland produces about 560,000 tonnes of beef a year, with 85% of it exported.

Milk production in the EU: Holding on to the fantasy, or facing the truth?

Recent protests about the falling price of milk have turned the spotlight on the dairy sector. But large scale dairy farming has the potential to exacerbate existing problems, writes Olga Kikou.

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