EU Health Commissioner defends European food system over horsemeat scandal


The EU Health Commissioner has insisted Europe has "one of the best food systems in the world", and has warned against a "kneejerk reaction" to the horsemeat scandal.

Giving evidence to the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on 28 February 2013, Tonio Borg insisted the scandal was an issue of fraud and labelling, rather than food safety.

He warned that the scandal was already impacting on the economy of the European food industry and said some consumers and countries were displaying an "irrational" reaction.

However a number of MEPs questioned his response to the crisis, with British Labour MEP Linda McAvan asking why no new long-term testing regime was being implemented in the wake of the scandal.

"You seem to have a view that there's nothing wrong with the system, but consumers don't share that view," she concluded.

Meanwhile French Christian Democrat MEP Corinne Lepage said that the crisis was being exacerbated by economic problems in many EU countries, where the number of inspectors had been cut.

However Mr Borg insisted that at EU level "we have not reduced the number of inspections and audits".

Irish food inspectors announced in mid-January that they had found horsemeat in frozen beefburgers made by firms in the Irish Republic and the UK, and sold by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.

Since then, a growing number of stores and companies across Europe have recalled beef ready-meals, after tests found they contained horse DNA.

Experts say the scandal has highlighted the complexity of the food industry's supply chains across Europe.

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

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