The EU has found horse DNA in almost 5 percent of food products labeled as beef after conducting more than 7,000 tests Europe-wide. It confirmed, however, the meat posed no threat to public health.
The European Commission announced Tuesday it had detected extensive food fraud across the European Union after finding traces of horsemeat in 4.55 percent of beef products tested in recent weeks.
Of 4,144 products from across the 27-nation bloc, 193 contained positive traces of horse DNA, the EU executive said in a statement.
However only 0.51 percent of an additional 3,115 tests were found to contain the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, or bute, which is banned for human use. Just 16 samples tested positive for the drug - 14 in Britain, one in Ireland and one in the Czech Republic.
Despite, in rare cases, resulting in severe side effects when consumed by humans, veterinary experts have said bute poses only a minor threat in small amounts.
"Today's findings have confirmed that this is a matter of food fraud and not of food safety," European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said in the statement.
"Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labeling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy given that the food sector is the largest single economic sector in the EU," Borg added.
He pledged to develop measures "to strengthen the controls along the food chain."
Europe-wide food scare
The European Commission ordered the DNA testing on February 15 after Ireland's food safety watchdog announced that it had discovered traces of horse DNA in burger products the previous month.
The scandal quickly engulfed numerous other European nations prompting the recall of millions of products in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The Netherlands was the most recent nation affected, with the nation's food watchdog calling last week on hundreds of Europen firms to recall 50,000 tonnes of beef supplied by a Dutch wholesaler.
ccp/jm (AFP, AP)