June 24, 2024

After Horsemeat Scandal, EC Revises Food Safety Laws

Months after the discovery of a food fraud scandal in Europe where foods advertised as beef were found to contain horse DNA, the European Commission (EC) has announced revisions to its food safety laws that include increasing unannounced inspections and upping penalties.  Under the new law, fines must be equivalent to the economic gain from the violation.  “Crime must not pay. If penalties are low it does pay,” said Tonio Borg, the European Commission’s Health and Consumer Commissioner said during  a news conference in Brussels yesterday.

HorseEuropean health officials spent months analyzing different meat products after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland announced it had discovered horse DNA in a variety of products in January. Since that time, at leas 4,000 samples of meat have been tested and three people have been arrested. In the US, the scandal prompted government officials to increase species testing of meat.

The reform package also aims to cut red tape by reducing the EC’s current body of food safety law from 70 pieces of legislation to five.  The goal is to make a nimbler, more efficient system that reduces the administrative burden on businesses while creating more transparency of system controls at each step in food supply chain.

“The agri-food industry is the second largest economic sector in the EU, employing over 48 million people and is worth some €750 billion a year. Europe has the highest food safety standards in the world. However, the recent horsemeat scandal has shown that there is room for improvement, even if no health risk emerged. Today’s package of reforms comes at an opportune moment as it shows that the system can respond to challenges; it also takes on board some of the lessons learned. In a nutshell, the package aims to provide smarter rules for safer food,” Borg said in a statement.

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