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Horse meat fraudsters targeted in Brussels

Alyn Smith MEP, SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has welcomed the publication of thorough proposals on animal and plant health which will see unannounced inspections in the meat industry in order to repair damage done by the recent horse meat scandal.

The proposals, published by the European Commission, aim to simplify but also strengthen the EU laws governing seed, plant and animal health. Although these proposals have been in the pipeline for some time, they contain a number of elements that respond specifically to the recent EU-wide horse meat scandal.

Among the "lessons learned", the new proposals require EU Member States to carry out unannounced inspections and impose more dissuasive penalties to combat food fraud. It is also proposed that the Commission be given the power to require testing and controls in this area (at the moment, the Commission can only recommend that Member States carry this out), in order to strengthen the fight against fraud.

Speaking from Brussels, Alyn said:

"While these proposals have been long expected, it is positive that the Commission has successfully incorporated recent experiences with horse meat into the new plans. While the EU has some of the toughest animal health and welfare laws in the world, it has been only too obvious that there is still room for improvement.

"Unannounced inspections in the meat industry are a welcome and necessary step, but on their own will not be enough. I am pleased that these are combined with demands for Member States to include anti-fraud controls in their national control plans and to ensure that financial sanctions are genuine deterrents. Together I hope that these measures will close the loopholes that have allowed this food fraud to continue without detection for so long. The confidence of consumers is vital for all levels of our food producing industry and we cannot take it for granted.

"The Parliament will now get its turn to amend these very wide-ranging proposals but I hope to see these common sense measures which will tackle the root causes of the horse meat scandal supported by the vast majority of MEPs."

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