UK Environment Secretary tells parliament immediate testing on processed foods, across the supply chain, is being carried out. Paterson is calling for pan-European meeting to chart next steps in the horsemeat crisis.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (FEBRUARY 11, 2013) (PARLIAMENT TV) - Britain's Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, on Monday (February 11) held a series of phone talks with his counterparts in Ireland, France and Romania to discuss the horsemeat crisis.
Details are emerging of a complex network of slaughterhouses and middlemen standing between the farm and the supermarkets across Europe. France and Britain have vowed to punish those found responsible for selling horsemeat purporting to be beef.
Paterson told UK parliament: The events we have seen unfold over the past few days in the UK and Europe are completely unacceptable. Consumers need to be confident that food is what it says on the label."
The independent Food Standards Agency is now conducting widespread testing of processed food products.
"Immediate testing of products will be done across the supply chain and this includes supplies to schools, hospitals and prisons as well as to retailers," he said.
Adding to concerns are indications that some horsemeat, perfectly edible in itself, may contain a drug known as bute - a common, anti-inflammatory painkiller for sporting horses but banned for animals intended for eventual human consumption.
But Paterson told lawmakers the FSA had "Assured me that it currently has no evidence to suggest that recalled products represent a food safety risk."
The Cabinet secretary is now calling for a meeting between ministers from European countries affected and the European Commission.
"I very much hope all of us, the ministers of the countries mainly concerned will get together because it is absolutely wrong, we are all completely agreed on this, that the public should be defrauded," he said. "If you buy a product called beef you expect to get beef, you don't expect to get horse. So we are completely clear that we want to get this matter resolved as rapidly as possible."
The issue came to light last month when Irish authorities found traces of horsemeat in beef products sold in Tesco supermarket.
Tesco has now withdrawn processed beef products as a precaution.
The supermarket Aldi has withdrawn frozen beef lasagne and spaghetti bolognese after it was revealed some products contained up to 100 percent horsemeat.
Paterson summoned leading food retailers and representatives of food processors to an emergency meeting at his office at the weekend to discuss the crisis.
Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday (February 13).