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EU Finds 1 in 20 Beef Products Tainted with Horsemeat

The European Union has concluded that nearly one in 20 beef products sold in Europe has been tainted with horsemeat.

European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg described the mislabeling of beef products as "fraud against the consumer," and called for new fines against companies that add horsemeat to beef products and still call it beef.

"As regards the fraudulent labeling, it has resulted that on average there was 4.6 percent presence of horsemeat through fraudulent labeling, which is a fraud against the consumer. Even though this is relatively low, this percentage is relatively low, I believe that we should adopt new measures and I'm proposing new measures to member states in order to decrease the possibility of abuse in the future. This would include a second look at the horse passport system, but also persuading member states to impose penalties, particularly pecuniary penalties, which would be proportionate also to the economic gain, which is made by those who indulge illegally in fraudulent labeling."

The EU said that more than 4,000 tests, in recent weeks, of products labeled as beef showed that 193 of them showed traces of horsemeat. In an additional 3,000 tests, 16 beef products showed evidence of phenylbutazone, a painkiller used for horses that can be harmful for humans, about one-half of one percent.

Borg said that while the animal painkiller should not enter the food chain for humans, the small percentage of beef products tainted with the drug shows that "this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety."