15 Feb 2013

Food safety experts to meet over horsemeat scandal

9:05 pm on 15 February 2013

Food safety experts from across Europe are to meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss the horsemeat scandal affecting several European countries.

They will draw up plans for conducting DNA tests over the coming weeks on food products labelled as beef.

A French meat processing company has has been accused of knowingly selling horsemeat as beef, while three men in Britain have been arrested on suspicion of fraud in meat sales.

The previously little-known European Union's Standing Committee on the Food Chain is suddenly the focus of attention and the plans its experts come up with could eventually have a huge impact on consumer confidence in the food being eaten in Europe and the health of its citizens, the BBC reports.

The widening scandal has affected at least 12 countries and raised questions about the complexity of the food industry's supply chains across Europe.

The group of experts from all 27 EU countries will work out how to conduct accurate random tests to determine how much food contains horsemeat.

They will also draw up plans for separate tests to assess the scale of contamination with phenylbutazone or "bute" - a veterinary medicine considered potentially harmful to humans.

Their proposals will still have to be approved by EU ministers.

The scale of the crisis was underlined on Thursday in France, where ministers said they believed the sale of horsemeat labelled as beef went on for six months and involved about 750 tonnes of meat.

The government accused meat processing firm Spanghero of knowingly mislabelling horsemeat as beef and suspended its licence pending further investigation.

The company has strongly denied the allegation, saying it only ever dealt in meat it believed to be beef.