EU probe launched into Polish beef scare; 14 countries affected

Warsaw: Fourteen European countries have been affected bytainted beef sales from a Polish slaughter house, according to data published by the European Commission on Friday.
The commission is launching a probe into the scandal, with inspectors set to arrive on Monday, a commission spokeswoman said.
Several EU members on Friday seized and destroyed suspect beef from a Polish slaughterhouse where allegedly sick cows were butchered, despite assurances by Warsaw that the meat did not pose a health risk.
Poland’s chief veterinarian Pawel Niemczuk confirmed that 2.7 tonnes of the suspect beef was exported, while the European Commission said the meat was traced to 13 member states where it was being withdrawn and destroyed.
The scare recalls a 2013 scandal in which horsemeat was passed off as beef and used in ready-to-eat meals sold across Europe. Brussels will send a team of auditors to Poland to assess the situation on the spot, Anca Paduraru, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said.
French authorities said 795 kilograms of beef from the slaughterhouse — which has now been closed — had been imported.
Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said “150 kilograms have already been recovered”, adding that efforts were on to seize the rest.
He said nine French companies had been “duped” into importing beef from the abattoir in Kalinowo, a village some 100 kilometres northeast of Warsaw.
Portuguese authorities said they had destroyed 99 kilograms of suspect Polish beef while Romania said it had eliminated 1,432 kilograms as a “safety measure”.
The beef was also exported to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, according to the European Commission.
Niemczuk said another seven tonnes were sold to about 20 outlets in Poland but insisted that tests found it did not pose a health risk.
Despite the assurances, Polish beef producers are reeling from the scandal with prices falling by around seven per cent since an undercover TV report on the slaughter was aired on Saturday.
“All segments of the Polish (beef) market are worried,” Jerzy Wierzbicki, head of the Polish PZPBM meat producers’ association, said on Friday.
Wierzbicki insisted that the cows shown in the report by the TVN24 commercial news channel were lame but not diseased.
“They were lame cows… such cattle should not be taken to a slaughterhouse but should rather be put down on the farm by a person who is qualified to do so,” Wierzbicki said.
“This is an isolated case, concerning a single company, the concerns are unfounded,” he said but conceded that the scandal could deal a blow to Polish beef producers who rely on exports.
A leading pork supplier in the European Union, Poland also produced some 415,000 tonnes of beef last year and nearly 90 per cent of it was exported, Wierzbicki said.
Polish prosecutors launched a criminal probe after TVN24 aired footage of apparently sick or lame cows being dragged across the floor and then butchered.
The TVN24 report said dealers bought lame or sick cattle at much lower prices. A journalist working undercover at the abattoir used a hidden camera to film the secret late night slaughter when veterinary authorities were unlikely to visit.
The European Commission has not commented on the quality of the meat in question but issued a statement that raised concerns about the treatment of the sick animals, which it insisted could not be considered fit for human consumption.— AFP