London: The head of the British parliament’s food affairs scrutiny panel on Sunday called for a ban on importing meat from EU countries until the horsemeat scandal is resolved.
Anne McIntosh, chair of the lower House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, urged consumers to buy British beef to reassure themselves that it is not contaminated with equine flesh.
Eating horse is considered taboo in Britain and recent tests have found some frozen ready meals produced in mainland Europe and labelled as processed beef actually contained up to 100 per cent horsemeat.
Asked on BBC television if she supported a temporary ban on importing meat from the European Union, McIntosh said she first pressed for such a move last week.
“I believe there should be a moratorium on the movement of all meat until such time as we can trace the source of the contamination and until we can establish whether there has been fraud either of the meat or of the labelling,” she said.
“The clear message is none of our meat, none of our slaughter houses, are implicated and we should be buying as local as possible and we should be buying fresh meat from the butcher, farm shop and supermarket,” she said.
“It just seems bizarre that we’re in this situation; we’ve imported masses of sub-standard meat that doesn’t meet our high standards of welfare and traceability.
“The fault does not lie really with the UK retailer.”
However, opposition Labour food spokeswoman Mary Creagh said banning EU meat imports would be “a knee-jerk reaction and I’m not sure that’s possible.”
She told Sky News television that British abbatoirs were known to have exported horsemeat to continental Europe.
“What we’re not clear about is whether any of those abbatoirs are sending that meat into the United Kingdom so a trade ban may not be the answer to this.”
She said Britain had not tested for horsemeat in the food chain since 2003 and the government needed to get a grip on the situation.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “very confident” that hospitals were making sure they were not providing horsemeat dressed up as beef to patients.
“All hospitals have a responsibility to make sure that the food they’re serving is safe,” he told BBC television.
“We don’t believe at the moment that there are public safety issues,” he said.