In the wake of the horse meat scandal, the European Commission unveiled plans on Monday to impose bigger fines on food producers who commit fraud.
The proposal comes after horse DNA was found in up to 5% of EU products labelled as beef, after the Commission carried out food tests across the continent.
‘When and if this package is approved, any pecuniary penalties relating to violation of EU legislation on these subjects must be equal to the economic gain which has been made out of the violation of this EU law; crime must not pay. If the penalties are low, it does pay. We all know that the horse meat scandal was not a question of food security safety but it was a question of deliberate fraudulent labelling to make economic gain because in most countries horse meat is cheaper than beef’, said EU commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg.
Amid concerns that the horse meat scandal has hit consumer confidence and has reduced trading opportunities, the new legislation allows Brussels to carry out unannounced food controls. Currently, it can only recommend such tests, as it did in the horse meat scandal.
‘We are proposing that in similar circumstance in the future, the Commission will have the power to bind member states to do such tests and not just recommend them’, said EU commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg.
The new proposals are part of a wider package that aims at modernising and harmonising rules in Europe’s agriculture and food sector. This sector is the second largest in the EU, employing over 48 million people and it is worth some €750 billion a year.