The deception carried on with undeclared horsemeat extends much farther than has been publicly discussed to date. This is the result of an analysis by foodwatch of reports in the European authorities information system RASFF. According to this analysis, the authorities received notice of 58 cases in which horsemeat had not been declared between 1 February and 10 April 2013.
This only includes products which were marketed internationally – further cases of fraud in which foods reached only the domestic market will have to be added to this figure.
The notifications concern products from almost every European country. They show that undeclared horsemeat was traded in ready meals such as lasagne, ravioli and pasta sauces, but also for example as stew meat. While there were a few cases where only small amounts of horsemeat were mixed in with other meats, companies also marketed “diced beef”, “beef steaks” or salami which in reality contained 100% horsemeat. Only on 5 April did European food safety authorities circulate a notification about whole, frozen “beef forequarters”, which actually consisted of horsemeat. The publicly accessible RASFF notifications only specify the cases, but not the names of the products affected.
Meat fraud made known – but not stopped
Even after the first horsemeat scandal in February, the fraud has apparently been merrily continuing across the whole continent. This shows that the companies’ own control systems fail miserably, even in the case of a known problem. The failure of the authorities automatically to inform the public of the names of the products affected is a fraud committed against the consumer. foodwatch therefore demands a corporate criminal law that makes it possible to impose commercially relevant penalties – only this will provide sufficient incentive for companies to carry out effective controls on suppliers and subcontractors.
The notifications are due to an increase in DNA tests carried out by the controlling authorities after the first horsemeat scandal hit the public in February of this year. The analysis of the RASFF notifications shows that the public debate and increased number of tests have apparently not succeeded in preventing the fraud and stopping trade in undeclared horsemeat. The RASFF system is used by authorities in the EU countries to exchange warning notifications about violations of food safety law. The notifications are usually only published in anonymised form.