Inspections at major retail chains in Bulgaria had not found any horsemeat in lasagna on sale, the head of the food control directorate at the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency said on February 14 2013.
Lyubomir Kulinsky told Bulgarian National Television in an interview that immediately after the first reports about mislabelling of horsemeat in other European Union countries, his agency had carried out checks at major retail chains.
He said that the mislabelled products found in other EU countries had been safe for consumption and the issue was about misrepresenting the product and seriously misleading customers.
Kulinsky said that smaller retail outlets also had been checked but the big chains were at greater risk because of their international connections.
Consumption of horsemeat in Bulgaria was legal but extremely rare. The market was so small that there was no demand for imports, he said.
In a February 13 statement after a meeting of EU agriculture ministers, Simon Coveney, agriculture minister of Ireland – the country currently holding the rotating presidency of the EU – said that the since the discovery in January of horse DNA in beef burgers, the issue had become a pan European problem as several other EU countries subsequently found horsemeat in a range of processed beef products.
Coveney said 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.
Coveney welcomed a proposed recommendation from the European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg to introduce an EU-wide three month programme of control measures including random DNA testing of processed beef products in EU member states and testing for horsemeat residues in slaughterhouses.
The proposal is for testing to be carried out in all EU countries on a proportional basis between March 1 and 31. Overall about 2500 samples of processed beef products will be taken across the EU and about 4000 samples taken at slaughterhouses for phenythbutazone (“bute”). These 4000 samples will compromise of 2500 samples of EU horsemeat and 1500 samples from non-EU horsemeat.
The intention behind the programme is to publish the findings of the first month’s testing on April15 following their presentation to the European 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 on Friday.
Coveney said that he was pleased with the progress achieved and the prompt response by the European Commission. He had arranged that the matter would be discussed at the next Council of Agriculture Ministers on February 25, he said.
(Photo: Eugene Z)