EU endorses plan to fight food fraud after horsemeat scandal

The European Union on Friday approved the immediate launch of a plan to battle food fraud drawn up in the wake of a horsemeat scandal widening across Europe.

A European Commission plan to carry out DNA tests on beef products and check in abattoirs for the presence of an equine drug potentially harmful to humans was endorsed at an extreordinary meeting of the EU's Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health.

A statement said the plan would start immediately for one month, and possibly be extended for another two.

It includes on the one hand DNA checks for the presence of unlabelled horse meat in processed foods, and on the other the detection of possible residues of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug, in horse meat.

The DNA controls, to be carried out mainly at retail level, will include 2,250 samples across the EU ranging from 10 to 150 per nation.

Detection of the equine drug is planned in one sample for every 50 tons of horse meat, with each of the bloc's 27 states due to carry out a minimum of five tests.

The EU's Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, who proposed the plan at crisis talks on Wednesday evening, said he welcomed the swift approval by EU member states of the plan.

"I call on them to keep up the pressure in their efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events," he said in a statement.

"Consumers expect the EU, national authorities and all those involved in the food chain to give them all the reassurance needed as regards what they have on their plates".