Europe's food scandals multiply

March 8, 2013 at 3:41 PM
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WARSAW, Poland, March 8 (UPI) -- Europe's food scandals are multiplying with the discovery of rotten meat recycled into Polish processed products and seizure of suspect Swedish food as far as China.

Analysts said European food industry could face a crisis if scandals continue spreading beyond controversies over unexpected horsemeat content in food.

EU food exports serve a global market and earn Europe billions of dollars in revenue.

Only this month the Warsaw Voice handed Polish food an award "in appreciation of its exceptional taste and quality."

Now Polish food inspectors are investigating the industry after they shut down a factory accused of processing returned meat into new products.

Poland reported a surplus of $4.3 billion in its food trade in 2012, higher than in any other sector of its economy.

Swedish retail group Ikea faced more trouble across Europe and in China after its minced meat and sausages were found to be contaminated with horsemeat and chocolate cakes sold in China produced high traces of fecal bacteria.

Europe exports processed foods worldwide, including countries that don't have adequate food analysis infrastructure. The discovery of food contamination beyond horsemeat means European food industry products will come under closer scrutiny than originally anticipated.

Sweden's National Food Agency has traced IKEA meat contamination to Swedish food producer Dafgard AB but information about cakes contaminated with intestinal bacteria remains scarce.

Ikea has halted meatball sales at its stores in 24 countries but stores in North America and other locations weren't affected.

The Polish meat scandal is unfolding, brought to public attention after undercover journalists for TVN24 television network filmed factory staff allegedly accepting "moldy" returns and reusing them in other meat products.

Among the scenes captured on camera was one showing a factory employee sifting through meat past sell-by date that had been returned and giving instructions to reuse it in other products, New Poland Express reported on its website.

The website cited an exchange between a factory insider and an undercover journalist.

"A whole leg of pig was returned. It was wrapped in foil and in the middle there was water and it was white with fungus. It was washed and heated up and used as new," the insider allegedly told the television reporter.

Polish health authorities have ordered the recall of meat items produced at the closed factory. Stores in Germany, Ireland, Lithuania and the United Kingdom were cited among recipients.

Markets in North America or elsewhere weren't mentioned by Poland's food authorities.

The factory issued a statement saying it had taken measures to ensure the food it produced is safe and to "reassure anxious consumers that such behavior has no place in the company," New Poland Express reported.

The latest incident comes just over a week after Polish inspectors found horse DNA in meat labeled as beef in three Polish meat-processing plants, the BBC said.

The Financial Times said Europe's food industry regulation was being tested by the latest crisis. The crisis has "raised questions about whether European regulators are capable of coping with an industry whose ingredients and subcontractors increasingly cross national borders."

Critics say the European food regulation is flawed because it doesn't require factories to name the countries that supply the ingredients. Food labeling mentions only the ingredients of a food item.

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