Parliament pressures Commission for better meat origin labelling

Burgers horsemeat.jpg

MEPs have sent a letter to Health Commissioner Tonio Borg asking for better meat origin labelling but the EU executive's position remains unclear.

MEPs fiercely oppose the European Commission on the meat labelling of ready meals. In an open letter written this Thursday (10 October), EU lawmakers asked the Commission to impose origin labels on lasagnas and other types of frozen dishes, eight months after the horsemeat scandal.

The Commission is expected to publish a report in the coming weeks laying out the direction to take the labelling of ready meals.

However, despite reassurances from Borg, the report “is about to bury the possibility of mentioning the origin of meat in prepared dishes,” Agnes Le Brun, a French MEP in the centre-right European People's Party group, warned in a statement, which led many MEPs to put their signature on the open letter.

“Could you now, Mr Commissioner, confirm that, despite the commitments you took, you are about to bury the origin labeling of meat in ready meals?”, the joint letter asks.

“It seems that the Commission is trying to justify this move by telling us that the consumers are more interested in the price than the origin of their meat”, Le Brun adds.

MEPs hope that a detailed labelling for a food's origin, processing, packaging will allow the consumers to be better informed, especially for low cost products.

Borg’s office told that “comments saying that the Commission is about to abandon the project are unfounded because the report hasn’t been published yet”.

But MEPs are standing firm on the issue because the measures prepared by the Commission are discussed internally but not with the Parliament, under the co-decision procedure.

An unclear position of the Commission

The Commission, however, assured member states and the Parliament however that it would consult them before making changes to labelling regulations.

The Commission has not given a clear position on origin labelling since the horsemeat scandal broke out at the beginning of 2013. Borg told EURACTIV in an interview in March that the scandal had more to do with fraud than with a regulatory gap.

>> Read the interview with Tonio Borg: Labelling isn't the answer to the horsemeat scandal

In April, EU-wide DNA tests revealed that 5% of the meat labelled beef contained traces of horsemeat. The figure was 13% in France, three times higher than the EU average.

On 15 January, routine tests by Ireland's Food Safety Authority found horsemeat in frozen beef burgers produced by firms in Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer.

Concerns grew last week when the British unit of frozen foods group Findus began recalling packets of beef lasagna on advice from its French supplier Comigel, after tests showed up to 100 percent of the meat in them was horse.

The affair has since implicated operators and middlemen in a range of EU countries, from abattoirs in Romania and factories in Luxembourg to traders in Cyprus and food companies in France.

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