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Arrests at Meat Plants over Horse Meat

15 February 2013

EU - Dyfed-Powys Police have made two arrests yesterday (14 February) at both meat plants inspected by the Food Standards Agency in Wales on Tuesday.

At Farmbox Meats near Aberystywth, Dyfed-Powys Police arrested two men aged 64 years and 42 years, and in a simultaneous operation police arrested a man aged 63 at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

Approvals for both plants were suspended by the FSA, so neither firm was operational.

Dyfed-Powys Police can confirm the three people have been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act and they are being detained at Aberystwyth Police Station where they will be interviewed jointly by police and FSA staff in what has this afternoon become a joint operation.

Meanwhile in Europe, President of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, chaired a meeting with the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg and Ministers from Member States directly affected by the serious disclosures of mislabelling of processed meat products.

The Minister said that, following the discovery in January by the FSAI meat authenticity survey of the presence of horse DNA in beef burgers, the issue had become a pan European problem as several other Member States subsequently found horse meat in a range of processed beef products.

Minister Coveney pointed out that that the application of DNA testing technology had uncovered what appears to be a widespread fraud and mislabelling of certain processed products resulting in consumers being mislead.

At the meeting in Brussels, Ministers shared information on the extent of the problem and on the respective responses to identify the suspect point in the supply chain. The Commission and Ministers agreed to direct their respective competent authorities to cooperate closely and also agreed that an EU coordinated response was required.

In this context Minister Coveney welcomed a proposed recommendation from the Commissioner to introduce an EU-wide three month programme of control measures including random DNA testing of processed beef products in Member States and testing for horsemeat residues in slaughterhouses.

The proposal is for testing to be carried out in all Member States on a proportional basis between the 1 and 31 March. Overall some 2,500 samples of processed beef products will be taken across the EU and some 4,000 samples taken at slaughterhouses for phenythbutazone (‘bute’). These 4,000 samples will compromise of 2,500 samples of EU horsemeat and 1,500 samples from non-EU horse meat.

The intention behind the programme is to publish the findings of the first month’s testing on 15 April following their presentation to the Commission. The results of this control programme would provide an evidence base for the possible consideration of further measures. The details of this recommendation will be tabled at a special meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today (Friday).

Following the meeting, Minister Coveney said he was pleased with the progress achieved and the prompt response by the Commission. He had already arranged that the matter would be discussed at the next Council of Agriculture Ministers on 25 February.

“The FSAI survey has shown Ireland to be at the forefront of controls on food production and signifies the importance placed on ensuring, not only safe food for consumers, but equally on ensuring the integrity of the food supply chain. Consumers should rightly expect not to be misled by inaccurate labelling and must have confidence in knowing what they are eating," he said.

“Ireland will continue to give leadership in this area and will work with our EU partners to ensure new consumer assurance measures, including increased testing and more accurate labelling, are introduced.”

UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson met Europol and Eurojust in the Hague to discuss meat fraud.

After the meeting, he said: “I’m very pleased that Europol is formally involved in the investigation on meat fraud, as first instigated by the UK Food Standards Agency.

“This morning I met Europol and Eurojust, who offered their full support to the national law enforcement agencies involved in meat fraud across Europe.

“This is an incredibly important step. It’s increasingly clear that this case reaches right across Europe. It’s clear that Europol is the right organisation to coordinate efforts to uncover all wrongdoing and bring criminals to justice, wherever there may be.

“I will be speaking to my European colleagues again to urge their enforcement agencies to follow our lead and share all information they have with Europol.”

In direct response to the horse meat scandal in the UK, EBLEX/BPEX and the NFU are reaching out to consumers in a media campaign to promote farm assured products after food industry confidence has taken a blow.

Starting this weekeend the Buy British campaign will appear in 10 national newspapers and will also target school caterers, helping them source meat for meals. British farmers will be promoted as producing great food which can be bought by looking out for the Red Tractor and Quality Standard Mark logos on packaging.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “British farmers are very proud of what they produce and are, quite rightly, furious about this current situation. They feel let down by what looks like a criminal element in an isolated part of the food chain.”

buybritish

“Our meat industry is highly regulated and it is imperative that we remind consumers that British farmers work to some extremely stringent standards. This gives me confidence that fresh, British meat should remain top of the shopping list.”

Anecdotal evidence from EBLEX points to demand for British red meat remaining robust. Shoppers are actively looking for farm assured labels to have confidence in the product, according to Jane Ritchie-Smith, head of consumer marketing for EBLEX.

A poll taken by Kantar found that 20 per cent more shoppers- post Horsemeat scandal- will buy more farm assured red meat and 13 per cent will strive for more locally sourced meat products.

EBLEX value the role schools can play in ensuring public confidence in British meat. Working with schools EBLEX can impart sourcing information of three of its assurance brands.

Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager at EBLEX said: “We are perfectly placed to help caterers supplying local authority schools source assured fresh meat for their meals if they do not already.”

“We are urging those companies that do supply schools to go the extra mile and demonstrate that the meat they are supplying is of a high standard with a completely transparent supply chain.”

The advertising will consist of half page adverts over the weekend and appear in the Evening Standard on Monday.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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