Russia seeks EU guarantees over horse meat scandal

AP News
Posted: Feb 21, 2013 2:23 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia may suspend meat imports from European Union nations because of the horse meat scandal, an official said Thursday.

Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief sanitary official, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he has sent a letter to the European Commission requesting a guarantee that meat products sold to Russia don't contain horse meat.

Onishchenko said that Russia would have to temporarily suspend meat imports from EU nations if the bloc fails to provide the assurances, and also called on Russians to choose locally produced meat.

Bulgaria, Portugal and Spain on Thursday became the latest countries to detect horse meat in food products labeled as beef in the widening European food scandal.

In Bulgaria, the government said that DNA tests conducted in Germany had found imported frozen dishes being sold in a supermarket chain to be as high as 80 percent horse meat.

The tests were ordered last week when suspicious frozen lasagna dishes were withdrawn from markets in Bulgaria.

Officials on Spain's Canary Islands said they had seized one metric ton of hamburger patties with varying levels of horse meat ranging from 5 percent to 40 percent per patty.

And in Portugal, authorities said they found and seized 12,410 packages of frozen lasagna containing horse meat.

The horse meat scandal began with tons of horse meat from Romanian abattoirs exported to France, where it was processed into ready-made meals. Romanian authorities said the meat was correctly labeled as horse and that the fraud occurred further down the food supply chain.

Since then, horse meat has turned up across Europe in frozen supermarket meals and in restaurants, schools and hospitals.

Tourism sector businesses on the Canary Islands were told Thursday of the seizure of the patties with horsemeat so they can take precautions at resorts popular among Europeans.