As the horse meat scandal spreads across Europe, EU ministers will hold a snap meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss a Europe-wide response to the crisis.
The controversy began when DNA tests revealed that some products sold across Europe were labeled as beef but in fact contained up to 100% horsemeat.
The European Commission said on Monday that the scandal is not a health safety issue but a labeling problem. It insisted that it is up to the member states to carry out investigations.
‘We are not talking about a health issue here. The EU can intervene in relation to the circulation of goods when there is a health risk. (…). Here we are talking about labeling. Somebody, somewhere in Europe sent a supplier meat that wasn’t properly labelled. The rules come as follows: once a food product is placed in the market in the EU, it is up t the member states to determine whether the product is risk free or not’, said EC’s spokesperson Frédéric Vincent.
The scandal has already impacted distributors in the UK, France, Sweden, Ireland and Romania. It has raised concerns over the complexity of the food supply chains in the EU.
‘Initial findings suggest that suppliers in Romania, who supplied the producer in France, who then sent the products on to Luxembourg for processing and then the product enter in to the European market. 4:40 If at some stage becomes clear that there has been fraud, then we will find ourselves in a business to business context. (…) So if there is fraud, operators have to sort this out through legal channels’, said EC’s spokesperson Frédéric Vincent.
Horse meat is edible. However, there are growing concerns that this meat may have come from work and sports horses not fit for human consumption.
Brussels insisted on Monday that there is no evidence that the horse meat itself poses a threat to human health. No bans on imports are envisaged so far.
‘We are not talking about a food safety issue. Nobody got sick. It’s just a food labeling issue. So at this stage, a ban on anything would be inappropriate. (…) A member state could indeed check whether or not there could be drugs which may have been used for the horses in question. But right now we are trying to find out precisely who has done what and when and since when’, said EC’s spokesperson Frédéric Vincent.
Meanwhile, Romanian prime Minister Victor Ponta angrily denied on Monday any allegations of fraud over horsemeat sold as beef in Romania.