Meat ban ‘only if health at risk’
Findus considering suing its suppliers
The Government is powerless to impose a ban on meat imports unless beef contaminated with horse meat is found to be a health risk, British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said yesterday.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said there is no evidence to suggest the horse meat detected poses a danger to humans, but confirmed that tests have been ordered on products for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone as animals treated with “bute” are not allowed to enter the food chain.
Mr Paterson was speaking after warning on Saturday that the next set of results on all retailers’ and manufacturers’ processed beef products could reveal further traces of horse meat. The results, ordered by the FSA, are due on Friday.
“There may well be more bad results coming through, that’s the point of doing this random analysis,” Mr Paterson said.
Appearing on BBC1’s Sunday Politics show, Mr Paterson repeated his vow to get to the bottom of the scandal, which he has suggested is part of an international criminal conspiracy.
He said: “This week obviously we’ll be talking to counterparts across Europe, because ultimately this is European Union competence.” But asked if there should be a moratorium on meat imports in the EU, he said: “That is not allowed within the European common market. If they find there is a product which could potentially be injurious to public health, emphatically, I will take the necessary action.”
Asked if he would consider a ban if tests proved there was a food safety risk, he added: “If there is a threat to public health that is allowed within the rules of the European market.”
He spoke after the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee backed a ban and urged the public to buy their meat locally.
Frozen foods firm Findus, which has taken its beef lasagnes made by French food supplier Comigel off shelves after some were found to have up to 100 per cent horse meat in them, said it was considering taking legal action against its suppliers as an internal investigation “strongly suggests” that the contamination “was not accidental”.
The company said in a statement: “Findus is taking legal advice about the grounds for pursuing a case against its suppliers, regarding what they believe is their suppliers’ failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity.”
The scandal has spread all over the continent as details of the elaborate supply chain in the meat industry emerge. French consumer safety authorities have said companies from Romania, Cyprus and the Netherlands as well as its own firms were involved.
Romanian authorities have confirmed they are investigating while their Dutch counterparts said they are ready to do so if necessary.
Beef products suspected of containing horse meat have also been withdrawn from shops in Ireland, Sweden and France.
Findus said it carried out a full product recall last Monday, two days before DNA tests found that some of its lasagnes contained up to 100 per cent horse meat.