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16 July 2013 | Will Green
MPs have expressed dismay that no prosecutions have taken place over the horse meat scandal.
The Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Committee said consumer confidence has been dented by the scandal and the Food Standards Agency (FSA)must become “a more effective regulator”.
Committee chairman and Conservative MP Anne McIntosh said: “The evidence suggests a complex network of companies trading in and mis-labelling beef or beef products, which is fraudulent and illegal.
“We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and seek assurances that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or illegality.”
She added: “Retailers and meat processors should be more vigilant against the risk of deliberate adulteration.
“Regular and detailed DNA tests are needed on all meat or meat-based ingredients that form part of a processed or frozen meat product. Consumers need to know that what they buy is what the label says it is.”
In a report published today the committee recommended large retailers carry out regular DNA testing of meat – with the results reported and published – and changes are made to the horse passport system.
MPs also want to see the FSA foster better links with its EU counterparts and be given powers to ensure local authorities carry out food testing.
McIntosh said: “The FSA must become a more efficient and effective regulator and be seen to be independent of industry.
“It must have the power to be able to compel industry to carry out tests when needed. It must also be more innovative in its testing regime and vigilant in ensuring every local authority carries out regular food sampling.”
The committee’s report reveals that in the four weeks to 12 May, sales of fresh burgers increased by 37.1 per cent in the UK, but sales of frozen burgers fell 16.2 per cent and frozen ready meals fell by 12.6 per cent.
On 23 April this year, 24 products in the UK were found to contain horse DNA above a 1 per cent threshold.
Across the EU almost 5 per cent of products were found to contain horse DNA, with the largest number of positive tests found in products on sale in France, Greece and Denmark, compared with 1 per cent of UK product samples tested.