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EU horsemeat scandal

European Food and Safety organizations reports the danger of lowest-cost in manufacturing

The recent scandal of processed food being found to contain horsemeat – first in the UK and Ireland and later unravelling throughout continental Europe – has not only diminished consumer confidence, but threatens to undermine Europe´s large and successful food industry.

Above all, the issue at the heart of the scandal is fraud. “The emphasis on obtaining the lowest prices possible and the fact that horsemeat is a cheaper ingredient than beef, has led to unacceptable consumer deception,” said Harald Wiedenhofer, General Secretary of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT).

Members of the European Parliament’s Health and Food Safety Committee this week debated the issue with the Director General for Health and Consumers and Food Safety Agency, with many calling for enhanced traceability, testing, labelling and sanctions for ensuring the safety of processed food.

EFFAT agrees that full traceability of food products in terms of place-of-origin, social conditions, animal or plant species, and the presence of manufactured nanomaterials and other artificial compounds must be better enforced, along with honest labelling and responsible marketing.

“However, what has been left out of this debate is the need for food prices to better reflect their real cost, so that consumers can obtain healthy products that guarantee quality practices and fair relations throughout the entire supply chain,” said Harald Wiedenhofer.

Days after the initial announcement by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on the 15th January that horse and pig DNA were found in beef burgers, researchers conducted an online consumer study, as part of the EU-funded project FoodRisC. This study took place before the latest developments about the widespread presence of horsemeat in certain beef products within some European countries.

Results showed that consumers were mainly concerned that the claims on labels did not match the contents of the products. There was very little evidence of concern about health risks – although some wondered how government assurances about safety could be so conclusive given that the discovery of horsemeat was completely unexpected.

Many european countries are now under alert. The head of a British parliamentary commission on the food industry has called for all meat imports from the European Union to be suspended while investigations

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