New DNA testing for horsemeat and bute agreed by European Commission

Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney said today that agreement has been reached at a European level on new tests for horse DNA and traces of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, also known as 'bute'.

New DNA testing for horsemeat and bute agreed by European Commission

Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney said today that agreement has been reached at a European level on new tests for horse DNA and traces of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, also known as 'bute'.

The first round of tests will be carried out by the end of March and results will have to be reported to the European Commission by April 15.

The EC will fund three quarters of the cost of the first month’s testing.

The Commission’s proposals received the support of the majority of Member States and were agreed by consensus.

Welcoming the outcome of today’s meeting of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH), Minster Coveney said: "This testing will contribute to a clearer understanding of the situation across Europe.

"[This is] another important step in restoring consumer confidence and is a direct result of the Irish Presidency’s initiative to convene the special meeting of Ministers on Wednesday.”

The Minister also confirmed that the issue will be discussed again at the Council of Agriculture Ministers, which he will chair, on February 25.

Today’s meeting in Brussels was a follow-on to the meeting of Ministers and EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg earlier this week.

Commissioner Tonio Borg said today: "I welcome the swift approval by the member states of the plan I tabled two days ago and I call on them to keep up the pressure in their efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events.

"Consumers expect the EU, national authorities and all those involved in the food chain to give them all the reassurance needed as regards what they have on their plates."

The plan provides for regular reporting of the results of the controls to the Commission, including information on sampling, type of analysis and follow-up controls.

Any positive findings related to horsemeat will include information on the country where the animals concerned were certified for slaughter.

The information will then be added to the EU’s existing rapid alert warning system on potential food risk, data from which are accessible by all EU member state authorities.

The Commission clarified that, under current EU rules, the name of foods which only suggest the presence of beef where other types of meat are also present, is misleading and breaching the legislation.

A statement added: "In the same way, labelling of foods containing horsemeat is not in line with the Union food labelling legislation, if the presence of horsemeat is not mentioned in the list of ingredients."

A separate checking system confirmed today involves random checks on legitimate horsemeat on sale, with the testing of one sample for every 50 tons of horsemeat to detect any residues of anti-inflammatory drug bute, potentially dangerous for humans and illegal in any meat used in food production.

Each EU country will carry out a minimum of five such tests during March, the EU experts’ committee said.

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