EU report: Less than 5 percent of samples contain horse meat

Less than 5 percent of food samples tested in a European Union (EU)-wide program contained traces of horse meat, the EU reported today.

About 0.5 percent of the horse samples tested contained phenylbutazone, or bute, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain. Its use is not permitted in animals destined for human consumption because of potential side effects. However, officials previously have said the levels of bute are too low to cause serious illness.

The EU-wide testing began last month and encompassed 7,259 tests across 27 EU countries. Of those, 193 samples, or about 4.6 percent, tested positive for traces of horse DNA and 16 samples, or 0.5 percent, tested positive for bute.

Additionally, more than 7,900 samples were tested by those in the food industry, which found 110 samples (1.38 %) with traces of horse DNA, according to the EU.

“Today’s findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety. 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,”  said Commissioner for Health and Consumers Tonio Borg in a statement. “In the coming months, the Commission will propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned.”

EU officials and representatives from its member states plan to meet April 19 to discuss future monitoring.

The EU-wide testing program followed the January discovery of horse and swine DNA in beef products in the U.K during routine monitoring. Of the 27 beef burgers tested, 10 contained horse DNA and 23 contained pig DNA. Since then, the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency and industry have implemented a sweeping species identification testing program along with additional monitoring for phenylbutazone.

Since the initial reports, species identification testing has ramped up, and mislabeled meat products have been found throughout Europe.

For more on this story from Neogen’s blog, click here.

Comments are closed.