BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Less than 5% of all beef products tested in the European Union contain horse meat, and about 0.5% of equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated with bute, according to the European Commission.
“Today’s findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety,” said Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumers. “Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labeling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the E.U. In the coming months, the commission will propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned.”
The European Commission funded the tests, and overall 7,259 tests were carried out in 27 E.U. countries. Of these, 4,144 were tested for the presence of horse meat D.N.A., and only 193 revealed positive traces of horse meat D.N.A. Additionally 3,115 tests were run for the presence of phenylbutazone, and only 16 showed positive traces of bute. Member states of the E.U. also reported food business operators conducted another 7,951 tests for horse meat. Of these, 110 contained horse meat D.N.A. (less than 2%).
The European Food Safety Authority and the European Medicines Agency said any residue of phenylbutazone in horse meat is not of concern to consumers due to the low likelihood of exposure and the overall low likelihood of toxic effects. Yet the E.F.S.A. and the E.M.A. confirmed it is not possible to set safe levels for phenylbutazone in food products and its use in the food chain should remain prohibited.The E.F.S.A. and the E.M.A. also said they continue to emphasize the need to improve monitoring and reporting of data on the presence of residues of veterinary medicines in live animals and food products of animal origin across the European Union.