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Europe: One in 20 beef meals tainted with horsemeat?

17 April 2013

DNA tests on European beef products have revealed extensive food fraud across the European Union, with almost one in 20 meals marketed as beef likely to be tainted with horse, the European Commission says.

Releasing the results of more than 4000 tests to detect the mislabeling of beef products, the EU executive said 193 products, nearly 5%, contained positive traces of horsemeat DNA.

More than 3000 further tests for phenylbutazone, the painkiller known as bute, which is used for horses but can be harmful to humans, found only 16 samples containing traces of the drug, less than 1%. In total, 14 cases occurred in Britain, one in Ireland and one in the Czech Republic.

''Today's findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety,'' EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said. Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labeling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy, given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU.''

Of the 353 tests carried out in France, 13.3% showed traces of horse, followed by Greece with 12.5% of 288 tests, Latvia, with 10% of 70 tests and Denmark with 9.1% of 99 tests.

The commission on February 15 ordered up to 150 DNA tests for each member of the 27 nation union, depending on size, as well as the tests for the presence of the veterinary drug.

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