British lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into the horse meat scandal, saying prosecution is long overdue.
Chair of the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Anne McIntosh, said: "We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and seek assurances that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or illegality.
"The evidence suggests a complex network of companies trading in and mislabelling beef or beef products which is fraudulent and illegal."
The horse meat scandal broke in early 2013 and prompted consumer and retailer concerns, along with government investigations – none of which have resulted in a criminal prosecution. At the height of the controversy, nearly five per cent of meat products sold in the EU were found to contain horse DNA. The highest number of tampered products were sold in France, Greece and Denmark. In the UK, only one per cent of product samples were found to contain horse meat, but that was enough to spark widespread concern about supply chain transparency and regulatory bodies like the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
In response to the scandal, MPs have urged the FSA to strengthen ties with EU regulators in order to put a more thorough food testing process in place.
Mrs McIntosh said: “Regular and detailed DNA tests are needed on all meat or meat-based ingredients that form part of a processed or frozen meat product. Consumers need to know that what they buy is what the label says it is.”
In addition, she said the committee would like to see the FSA “become a more efficient and effective regulator and be seen to be independent of industry”. MPs say improvements to the FSA’s operating strategy would help the regulator stay vigilant and better enforce widespread food sampling.
While the future of the FSA remains unclear and prosecutions for dishonest food suppliers are pending, Britain's grocers have taken action to get meat sales back on track. Many supermarkets have responded to the scandal by increasing testing, while household names like Sainsbury’s and Tesco have pledged to increase supply chain transparency.
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