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Aigner warns horse meat scandal may grow

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Aigner warns horse meat scandal may grow
Photo: DPA
10:06 CET+01:00
Europe's meat scandal is likely to widen, Consumer Minister Ilse Aigner warned on Monday, after it was revealed that horse and pork had been found in German döner kebabs and Nestlé meals with German-supplied meat were taken from shelves across the continent.

Nestle announced it was removing two ready-to-eat meals -- beef ravioli and beef tortellini -- from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain after tests found traces of horse DNA in the products.

A Nestle frozen lasagne product made for the catering business was also being withdrawn from sale in France and Portugal because horse traces were found in them.

The horse DNA was found in products made with meat supplied by German firm H.J. Schypke, Nestle said in a statement late on Monday.

JBS of Brazil, which used H.J. Schypke as a subcontractor, meanwhile said in a statement that it would stop buying European meat "until confidence is restored in the European beef supply chain."

It sought to distance itself from the scandal, saying Schypke was "not in any way part of the JBS Group" and adding that "no case of co-mingling of species has been identified in products produced in or at JBS factories."

Schypke on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing.

"We buy all raw materials already chopped up, fresh or frozen, from certified suppliers... We would like to point out expressly that H.J. Schypke has at no time purchased horsemeat," it said.

The firm said it "greatly regretted" the current case and vowed to carry out genetic tests on raw meat in future.

German authorities meanwhile announced on Tuesday that 24 samples out of 360 official tests carried out on meat had revealed traces of horsemeat.

"It's too early to assign blame unilaterally... the authorities are working in the federal states to work out who should take responsibility," consumer affairs ministry spokesman Holger Eichele told reporters.

But he said the authorities would eventually be able to tell who were the "main culprits" and the "co-culprits" once the tests of ready meals and inspections of slaughterhouses and food production centres were complete.

On Monday, German discount chain Lidl pulled ready-made meals from the shelves of its Finnish, Danish, Swedish and Belgian stores as it also confirmed the presence of horsemeat.

The Berliner Zeitung daily reported on Monday that traces of horse and pork had been found in kebabs in Berlin in Leipzig.

Normally made from lamb, döner sandwiches with pork would be outrage for Germany's Muslim and Jewish communities.

Horse is also not considered kosher, although it can be halal according to Islam.

Earlier on Monday, Aigner announced Germany planned to tighten checks and sanctions on food production under an action plan to combat fraudsters selling horse meat as beef.

The 10-point plan agreed by the federal and regional consumer affairs ministers aims to shed light on the mislabelling of meat products, a regional minister said after the scandal embroiled a string of European countries.

"Germany will do more than the EU will do. We will investigate more than the EU has agreed to," Lucia Puttrich, the central state of Hesse's consumer affairs minister said three days after the EU approved a testing plan.

Other measures targeted include improving company oversight systems as well as creating requirements for companies to share information with authorities. Ministers also agreed to examine the framework of sanctions including fines.

"Tricking, cheating, deceiving must not be worth it," Puttrich warned. Aigner said an early warning system should also be examined.

Traces of horsemeat were detected in processed meals sold in a number of German supermarket chains last week. Horse has also been discovered in beef tortellini manufactured in Germany by a Liechtenstein-based group, Hilcona, and sold by budget retailer Lidl.

The Local/AFP/DAPD/mry

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