Sellers test for horsemeat as Europe-wide scandal spreads
Controversy in Western Europe leave local retailers on high alert
Posted: February 20, 2013
EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg gives a press conference Feb. 13 on the horsemeat crisis at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. EU agriculture ministers held crisis talks in Brussels to agree on a response to the spreading scandal. "Consumers are entitled to know what they are eating," Borg said.
Concerns over Europe's horsemeat scandal have reached the Czech Republic, with local retailers looking into whether any of their products have been mislabeled. Supermarket chain Tesco has already withdrawn three products from its shelves and has sent samples to the United Kingdom for testing.
"In collaboration with our headquarters, we are monitoring and evaluating the situation," Tesco spokesman Jan W. Dvořák said.
The Ahold chain, which during Christmas became the first Czech supermarket to temporarily reintroduce horsemeat as a delicacy item, says it has no evidence its beef products have been contaminated.
"We have not ascertained any occurrence of horsemeat in our products, but we have started preventive testing nevertheless," spokeswoman Judita Urbánková said. "[Recently] we received results from an accredited foreign laboratory, stating that the samples did not contain horse DNA."
Under orders from Agriculture Minister Petr Bendl (Civic Democrats, ODS), authorities have also begun preventive testing and say they too have not uncovered any information to suggest horsemeat has entered the local market in products labeled as beef.
"We have no information that any such products were made in the Czech Republic, either through official channels or from importers," State Veterinary Administration spokesman Josef Duben told the Czech News Agency. "However, we took five samples from Polish beefburgers, minced meat from Poland, spaghetti Bolognese from Belgium and meat products from Romania to make sure we are certain."
Local authorities announced Feb. 18 they had been alerted to a possible batch of contaminated beef lasagna made by Tavola S.A. Comigel of Luxembourg but say the product never reached the Czech Republic. The importer Bidvest says an older batch of the product is now being tested at a laboratory to see if it contains traces of horsemeat.
Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority spokesman Pavel Kopřiva said there was no evidence yet that horsemeat has appeared here, but he warned Feb. 14 it would be two to three weeks before any results are received from the inspection process which has involved taking dozens of strategically chosen samples.
In Brussels, food-safety experts from across Europe have met to discuss the mislabeled horsemeat scandal. The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain will now draw up plans for large-scale testing of beef products to check if they contain horse DNA.
Experts from all 27 EU countries will try to devise accurate random tests to determine the scale of the mislabeling of horsemeat.
Andrew Greene can be reached at