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Calls for Europe-wide testing for horsemeat

Monday, Feb 18, 2013 - 02:43

Feb.18 - As the European horsemeat scandal widens, with products removed form supermarket shelves from Britain to Austria, and France to Norway, Germany is calling for a Europe-wide food screening programme. Hundreds of jobs are also under threat at a French meat producer linked to the ongoing saga. Joanna Partridge reports.

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More food testing and more discoveries of horsemeat in European beef dishes. Products have been taken off supermarket shelves from Britain to Germany and from France to Norway. As a result laboratories like this one in Germany are inundated. SOUNDBITE: Jens Wiehler, Eurofins laboratory spokesperson, saying (English): "We were really overwhelmed by the number of food samples. In the beginning of the crisis most came from the UK, who even arranged a daily delivery by car across the channel, but now the volume is even bigger, partially from France and of course Germany." The lab has detected traces of horsemeat in some beef meals and almost 100% in others. The source of the contamination is still unclear, and the blame game has seen meat traders, food processors, retailers and governments accusing each other. The CEO of frozen food retailer Iceland points the finger at local governments who want cheap food for schools, hospitals and prisons. SOUNDBITE: Malcolm Walker, Chairman and CEO of Iceland, saying (English): "Cheap food doesn't come from supermarkets. It's driven by local authorities trying to get the prices down. And ok, some supermarkets have got cheaper label products - they'll maybe have three levels, they'll have the premium range, the standard range and the economy or white pack range. And in that economy range there's a mix of products going into there but it'll always be declared on the label. You might find beef-burger with chicken in it or lamb or goodness knows what but it'll all be declared on the label." No one has fallen ill from eating horse - first discovered in Irish beefburgers. But the scandal has exposed the complex route food takes from slaughterhouse to plate, and uncovered evidence of widespread mis-labelling. It's damaged Europeans' confidence in their processed food. And Governments are under pressure - Germany's agriculture minister is calling for Europe-wide action. SOUNDBITE: Ilse Aigner, German Consumer Affairs and Agriculture Minister, saying (German): "The focus will be to carry out a Europe-wide screening to find out whether this is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond that, we want to extend the measures to other types of meat to find out whether only horsemeat was affected." Some jobs are now threatened by the widening scandal. French meat-processing firm Spanghero's licence has been temporarily withdrawn while investigations continue. Its staff of over 300 were to meet with France's agriculture minister to work out how they'll be paid until the plant reopens. Spanghero's boss has previously accused French officials of blaming them too quickly.

Calls for Europe-wide testing for horsemeat

Monday, Feb 18, 2013 - 02:43

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