The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s Food Contamination report, published today (July 16), called for “regular, detailed tests on all meat or meat-based ingredients which form part of a processed meat product”.
“We welcome the commitment of some supermarkets to carry out DNA tests on meat products. We recommend that this be made compulsory for large food retailers, with appropriate penalties imposed for those who fail to do so.
“The cost of this testing must be borne by the relevant companies as part of their due diligence and should not be passed on to the consumer.”
Closer to government
The report called for wide-ranging powers for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), arguing that it must be closer to government to respond rapidly to crises.
“It [the FSA] should be given the powers to compel retailers to carry our spot checks and tests where necessary – on both the label and the physical content of the meat …”
The agency should have access to all test results, which should also be summarised on retailers’ websites it added, stating: “We do not believe this objective can be met by voluntary agreement alone.”
Compel local authorities
The FSA should be able to compel local authorities to carry out some sampling annually, especially since three local authorities had conducted no sampling at all in the past year, the EFRA report claimed.
Declining numbers of UK public analysts and public laboratories was also flagged up as a concern by the committee. “If they fall much further, food samples will have to be sent abroad for testing. This is likely to result in increased costs and fewer samples being submitted.
“The government must keep this under review and ensure there are sufficient, properly trained, public analysts in the UK.”
Slow pace of investigations
The report slams authorities for the slow pace of investigations into the illegalities surrounding the adulteration of beef products with horsemeat earlier this year.
Launching the Food Contamination report, committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh MP, said: “The evidence suggests a complex network of companies trading in and mislabelling beef or beef products which is fraudulent and illegal.
“We are dismayed at the slow pace of the investigations and seek assurances that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or illegality.”
Concerned by the number of UK horse carcasses testing positive for the horse drug phenylbutazone (bute), the committee argued government and industry should pay to maintain bute tests to screen carcasses entering the supply chain.