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EFRA Committee launches Food Contamination Report on horsemeat incident

17 July 13

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have launched a second report on the horse meat incident, which was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 10 July 2013. The Food Contamination Report states “evidence suggests that the contamination was a result of fraud by elements of the food industry seeking to make a profit and able to do so despite food traceability requirements.  It is disappointing, six months on that no prosecutions have been brought in either the UK or in Ireland where the horse meat contamination was first identified.” The report indicates that consumer confidence in the frozen and processed meat sector has fallen and that the Government should work with industry and farmers to rectify this.  It suggests that large retailers should be made to carry out regular DNA tests on all the meat products they sell to ensure their foods contains the ingredients they advertise, stating in the report that “they recommend that this be made compulsory for large food retailers, with appropriate penalties imposed for those who fail to do so.”  The Committee recommends the Food Standards Agency must be a more effective regulator of industry, and be given powers to compel industry to carry out food testing when needed and publish all test results.  The role of the FSA should also be better communicated so that in the future there is no uncertainty as to who is responsible for responding to similar incidents. Local Authorities should also adopt targeted sampling and should carry out testing from time to time on products which might be contaminated without requiring intelligence to support it.  The report states that across the EU as a whole 4.66% of products tested contained over 1% horse DNA.  In separate EU-mandated tests for the presence of phenylbutazone (bute) in horses slaughtered for human consumption the UK had the largest number of positive results, which the committee states causes concern.  They recommended that the present system for issuing horse passports must change and a single national database be established in all EU Member states, as there are too many loopholes in the present system. They indicate that the Government and industry should share the cost.  The Committee are also concerned about the decline in the number of public analysts who carry out these tests and recommend the Government should keep this under review, ensuring there are sufficient numbers of trained public analysts in the UK.   In response to the issue of criminal prosecutions, the BBC have quoted a Defra spokeswomen as saying that police are still carry out investigations.

RSSL' s DNA and Protein Laboratory uses PCR techniques to identify DNA from over 20 meat species including chicken, pork and beef in protein extracts and other complex ingredients as well as foodstuffs.   Routine meat speciation is also performed using ELISA techniques to detect pork, beef, lamb, poultry and horse (UKAS accredited).  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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