Horsemeat: EU food controls have failed UK consumers, finds EFRA

According to the UK government, the current arrangements for testing and control across the EU food industry have failed consumers in the UK.

In light of a report carried out by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, it was concluded that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was in need of “clear powers and responsibilities, so it can respond more effectively to any future food adulteration scandal”.

At today’s launch of the “short inquiry” into the contamination of beef products, Committee chair Anne McIntosh MP said: “The scale of contamination emerging in the meat supply chain is breathtaking. More revelations will doubtless come to light in the UK and across the EU.

She said there was every indication that horsemeat had been “intentionally” substituted for beef by “criminals” with access to the food industry. McIntosh added: “Elements within the food industry have duped consumers in the UK and across Europe in pursuit of profit.

“The government must ensure effective traceability requirements in respect of the sale and marketing of processed foods originating from EU member states, including the UK. Retailers have responsibilities to ensure UK consumers get food that is labelled accurately and provides sufficient information to make informed decisions about their purchases.”

She also explained that it would take time and money to restore customer confidence and said the government had a role to secure the correct balance between affordable food prices and effective regulations that require transparency and quality.

She said: “The consumer cannot be left to face a catch-22 where they can either pay for food that complies with the highest standards of traceability, labelling and testing or accept that they cannot trust the provenance and composition of the foods they eat.”

Recommendations made by the Committee included:
• The FSA be given the statutory powers to require producers to undertake testing, taking into account the level of risk.
• All testing results must be reported to the FSA, whether mandated by the FSA or carried out independently.
• A broader range of testing to provide greater assurance to consumers.

The Committee warned the government that it should not, at this time, propose to reduce the labelling standards applied to British food.

The Committee said it intended to take further evidence on these issues.