Horse DNA has been found in up to 5% of EU products labelled as beef, according to results published on Tuesday by the European Commission.
Additional tests on horse carcasses revealed a 0.5% contamination of phenylbutazone or ‘bute’, a potentially harmful drug banned from human consumption.
The Commission dismissed concerns that bute traces or horse meat consumption pose a risk to human health and called the scandal a ‘food fraud’.
“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” said Commissioner for Health and Consumers Tonio Borg.
The three-month food tests were carried out on more than 4000 beef products across the EU after horse meat had been found in a batch of Findus frozen lasagne.
Amid concerns that the horse meat scandal has hit consumer confidence and sales of ready meals, Commissioner Borg said that strengthening food controls is a priority for the EU.
“In the coming months, the Commission will propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned,” Borg said. With each test costing around 400 €, an estimated 2.5 M€ was spent to carry out the pan-European investigation.
The tests showed that France had the most cases of illegal horsemeat of any EU country. The UK had the highest amount of ‘bute’ contamination, with 14 positive cases.