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Anderson MEP questions Commissioner Tonio Borg on horsemeat scandal

21 February, 2013 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Questioning Commissioner Tonio Borg at the EU Agriculture Committee in Brussels this week, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

“While the EU Commission claims that its traceability systems are among the most developed in the world, what has become clear from the beef contamination scandal, is that it is still not 100% fit for purpose in the processing sector.

“Fraudsters have been able to exploit the weakness of regulations to make what seems to be a large profit, with a relatively small risk through contaminating beef products by mixing it with horsemeat. Furthermore, allowing large retail chains to shirk responsibility for proper labelling has created a situation where consumer confidence has been severely damaged.

“I strongly believe that we need to be looking towards mandatory country and region of origin labelling for meat products, including for frozen and processed meals. If companies are required to divulge maximum information they would then be compelled to take more responsibility for their supply chain - supermarkets should be able to stand over the food products they sell for human consumption.

“Therefore, taking full account of the specific characteristics of the member states, thereby allowing beef from regions such as the north of Ireland identify as Irish if producers so wish, and Scottish beef to retain its 'Scottish' label would aid traceability in general and prevent scandals like this from recurring.  Being able to retrace our meat back from the ‘fork to the farm’ would also offer consumers the fullest possible information and renew confidence

“I would therefore like to ask the Commissioner what it plans to propose in relation to this - will there be stronger legislation proposed for meat products including frozen and processed meals?

“While this scandal may not constitute a food safety issue it is a major consumer confidence issue and raises many more questions about what other undeclared species may be entering the food chain. Consumer confidence is the mainstay of any industry and we must do all in our power to ensure that consumers can have confidence that what it says on the packet is exactly what they are getting.

“I also met with Commissioner Borg’s Head of Cabinet, Joanna Darmanin and Harry Vassallo when I took the opportunity to emphasise my concerns and those of our local producers.”

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