Horsemeat scandal: 'No risk' to human health, says minister

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Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said there is "no risk" to human health of food products contaminated with horsemeat.

He said unless products had been designated as unsafe by the Food Standards Agency, consumers should not worry.

But he said people should return the affected products "as a precaution".

Mr Paterson was making a statement on 11 February 2013 on developments following the discovery of horsemeat in processed beef products in January.

Labour accused the environment secretary of mishandling the horsemeat crisis.

Mr Paterson told MPs it was a case of "fraud and mislabelling" and not "food safety" - and that Europe-wide supply networks had been affected.

He said the UK government was taking "urgent action" with the Food Standards Agency, industry and European partners to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

He said there would be immediate testing of products across the supply chain, to include tests at schools, hospitals and prisons.

But shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh accused Mr Paterson of incompetence.

"Crisis? What crisis? Until Saturday's panic summit, he hadn't actually met the food industry to address this crisis, and his food minister had met with the food industry just once, exactly a week ago," she said.

Ms Creagh said there was currently a "lucrative" trade in horses, claiming that while the Polish and Romanians were being "conveniently" blamed for the scandal, the contamination problem had started across the Irish Sea - with an estimated "70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland".

Liberal Democrat Roger Williams said the "active involvement" of Europol was essential to "break up the complex criminal food chains that have been set up to take advantage of consumers".

The DUP's Reverend William McCrea said the scandal had caused "serious damage" to public confidence in the safety of British food, and called for those responsible to face legal action.

Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, who chairs the Commons Environment Committee, said foreign imports should be banned for the time being.

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