FSA reviews horse meat response

The United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Food Standards Agency (FSA) hopes to learn from the horse meat scandal that hit the nation earlier this year, according to a statement.

In January, officials found 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. In response, FSA and industry implemented a sweeping species identification testing program along with additional monitoring for phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory veterinary drug prohibited for use in animals destined for consumption.

The agency recently received a review from Professor Pat Troop, of Cambridge University Hospitals, regarding its handling of the incident. While the review noted FSA did well in aspects of its response, Troop also noted ways the agency could improve.

These points include more clearly defining the roles of individual government agencies when handling an incident as large and complex as the horse meat situation, improving information sharing, enhancing the agency’s major incident plan and reviewing the agency’s powers and codes of conduct.

“The FSA welcomes this report and we will review Professor Troop’s findings in detail,” said FSA Chair Jeff Rooker in a statement. “This is the biggest food incident ever handled by the Food Standards Agency and it is important that we learn lessons from our handling – both what worked well and areas that need to be improved.”

FSA already has began work on improving the incident plan as well as working to enhance intelligence sharing infrastructure, said FSA’s Chief Executive Catherine Brown during the FSA open board meeting.

Following the discovery in the U.K., the European Union also implemented a wide-ranging testing program. Less than 5 percent of the more than 7,000 samples tested contained horse DNA.

The statement along with Troop’s PowerPoint presentation is available here.

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