Britain, Ireland want DNA testing after horsemeat fraud

Ministers from Britain and Ireland called Wednesday for DNA checks on processed foods as part of a rapid EU response to the horsemeat scandal widening across Europe.

"We need a solution fast," said Britain's Owen Paterson, London's food and environment minister, on arriving in Brussels for crisis talks on the food scandal. "We've got to think of the consumer, the consumer is being defrauded."

He said London favoured the introduction of DNA testing of frozen foods as well as a possible extension to processed foods containing meats of country-of-origin tags currently used only for fresh meat.

Ireland's farming minister Simon Coveney too called for DNA tests and said he expected a proposal on the issue at the close of talks later Wednesday between ministers and officials from eight countries affected by the scandal and the EU's health commissioner Tonio Borg.

"We have the technology now to test food," Coveney said. "We need to test to ensure food is what it says it is. I think that will involve DNA testing across Europe."

The Irish minister, who will chair the talks as his country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the bloc needed to respond quickly and collectively to food safety fears.

"This is impacting on the integrity of the food chain which is a really significant problem for many countries," he said as Germany announced it was investigating a suspect case after Britain and France both found horsemeat in foods supposed to contain beef.

"What we want is an open and blunt conversation on how Europe can collectively respond," he said.

"What's happening here is fraud." he added. "People are selling cheap horsemeat as beef. We need to get this out of the food chain fast."

Britain's Paterson said the EU police corps Europol should be brought in to help if it was found there was an international criminal conspiracy at work.

He said the countries involved "are absolutely determined to get to the bottom of this."

"The quicker we get this resolved the quicker we can get confidence established across Europe in our food systems and the products," he said.