EC horsemeat tests reveal 5% horse DNA contamination

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Horse DNA was discovered in 5% of meat products tested at random. See the end of this article for details of our free one-hour webinar on lessons to be learned from the horsemeat crisis
Horse DNA was discovered in 5% of meat products tested at random. See the end of this article for details of our free one-hour webinar on lessons to be learned from the horsemeat crisis

Related tags: Horse dna, Food chain, Free one-hour webinar, European union, United kingdom

European Commission tests costing £2.15M have revealed horse DNA in 5% of meat products tested at random across the EU’s 27 Member States.

The banned veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or bute, was found in 0.5% of horsemeat tested.

Learning the lessons of the horsemeat crisis is the subject of a free one-hour webinar​ to be staged at 11am GMT on May 16. See the end of this article for more details.

The EU commissioner for health and consumers Tonio Borg said the results confirmed that the horsemeat crisis was “a matter of food fraud and not of food safety”.

Borg added that restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in the food chain after this “fraudulent labelling scandal”​ was now of vital importance for the European economy. The food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU, he added.

“In the coming months, the Commission will propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned,”​ said Borg.

Member States conducted 4,144 tests for the presence of horsemeat, of which 193 or 4.66% revealed horse DNA.

Of the 3,115 tests for bute, 16 or 0.51% proved positive.

Food business operators

Member States reported another 7,951 tests for the presence of horse DNA conducted by food business operators – including producers, processors and distributors. Of these, 110 or 1.38% contained horse DNA.

The EU launched the programme of checks across the 27 EU Member States in February after horsemeat was discovered in Findus ready meals.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that in the UK 150 samples of beef products were tested as part of the EC survey in addition to its work with local authorities across the UK.

None of the UK samples were found to contain horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold for reporting.

As regards phenylbutazone, the FSA introduced a ‘positive release system' at UK horse slaughterhouses on February 11. Every horse carcass is sampled for the presence of residue from the veterinary medicine. Carcasses are only released from the slaughterhouse if no bute is found.

Between February 11 and April 4, 836 carcasses were tested for bute. Of those, 14 carcasses were found to contain bute and were prevented from entering the food chain, said the FSA.

'Shocking blind spots'

Last week, a supply chain management specialist said the European meat supply chain still contained “shocking blind spots”, ​after the Dutch authorities revealed 50,000t of meat supplied by two Dutch meat traders may have contained horsemeat.

Meanwhile, the free webinar – Horsemeat: learning the lessons of an avoidable crisis – aims to identify key lessons from the continuing horsemeat crisis.

Taking part in the webinar – organised by the Food Manufacture​ Group – will be speakers from the FSA, Leatherhead Food Research and event sponsor business law firm DWF.

Speakers will include the FSA’s director of operations Andrew Rhodes, Professor Tony Hines, head of food security and crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research.

Joining them will be Hilary Ross, partner with DWF.

The webinar will focus very much on the opportunities for the future rather than the problems of the past.

Book your free place and find more information here​.

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