MPs criticise horse meat investigation

MPs criticise horse meat investigation

A report by the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has alleged that the so called ‘Horsegate’ affair was brought about by an illegal network of companies trading in mislabelled meat. The committee has also criticised the Food Standards Agency (FSA) saying it should be a more effective regulator and given new powers to compel the food industry to carry out product testing.

MPs have also condemned the slow pace of the investigation and the failure to bring prosecutions six months after the problem was originally identified. The scandal started in January with the discovery of equine DNA in a beef burger produced in the Republic of Ireland for supermarket giant Tesco. Further examples were discovered in the UK and across Europe. Products were withdrawn by various retailers and foodservice companies, including Compass Group, the world’s biggest catering company, which supplies schools and hospitals across the UK. Testing also revealed that pork was being used in beef products.

‘The evidence we received from retailers and food processors in the UK and Ireland suggests a complex, highly organised network of companies trading in and mislabelling frozen and processed meat or meat products in a way that fails to meet specifications and that is fraudulent and illegal,’ said the committee’s report. MPs have demanded assurances that the authorities would act if evidence was uncovered to support criminal prosecutions.

The report added: ‘We are concerned at the failure of authorities in both the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the extent of this and to bring prosecutions. We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and would like assurance that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or other illegal activity.’

The committee said it was surprised that 14 out of 836 samples of horse meat from the UK tested positive for the painkiller bute — the highest number of positive tests in the EU, adding that the long supply chains for beef products across Europe and the number of ‘middle-man’ companies used made tracing the origin of meat difficult.

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