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Horsemeat scandal extends across Baltics

By Vladislav Vorotnikov , 05-Mar-2013

Related topics: Industry & Markets, Safety & Legislation, Livestock, Beef, Russia, Others, EU

The horsemeat scandal has continued to gain momentum across the Baltics, with Russia, Latvia and Lithuania discovering contaminated meat products.

Last week, Russian veterinary specialists found horse DNA in sausages imported from Austrian company Landhof. A few days ago, horsemeat was found in Latvia in several batches of products from one of the country’s largest meat processing plants, Forevers. In Lithuania, horsemeat had already been revealed in the production of two Latvian production companies – Rēzeknes gaļas kombināts and Kūršu zeme.

In response to these incidents, Russia has introduced enhanced laboratory control for all European meat production.

“Right now, all finished meat products imported into Russia are subject to DNA laboratory control. Previously, Russian veterinary services did not conduct such studies. Not one lab did it previously,” said Oksana Knyazev deputy head of Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor’s department for Moscow city, Moscow Oblast and Tula Oblast.

The Baltic countries are also undertaking broad testing of products for the presence of horsemeat.

“Overall, we have seized samples of in-store meat products from 28 countries – and it is not only preserves, but also ravioli, lasagne, sausages etc. We have already tested 17 samples and found horsemeat under the guise of beef contained in not only canned production of Kūršu zeme, but also in the production of the Rēzeknes meat processing plant,” said Vidmantas Paulauskas, deputy director of the Lithuanian Food and Veterinary Service.

In Estonia, in response to the identification of horsemeat in products from Latvian producers, the country’s largest retailers Rimi and Maxima have urgently withdrawn Latvian meat products from sale.

“For security reasons, it was decided to remove these products from sale. We currently have no information as to which canned production contained horsemeat and to what amount – so we turned to the veterinary department to conduct an examination,” explained Catherine Butts, spokesperson for Rimi.

Austria has already announced that it has stopped the export of meat products to Russia, until the situation becomes clearer. At recent negotiations with European veterinary experts, Rosselkhoznadzor leaders said that such steps should be also taken by Poland, as well as all other countries where horsemeat was found in finished products.

Rosselkhoznadzor has promised to limit meat imports from the EU if it finds another shipment of mislabelled products.

“In there is another discovery of what should not be there, Rosselkhoznadzor will be forced to express distrust to the veterinary services of the countries that violate Russian veterinary and sanitary requirements. This means the companies included in the list of suppliers under the guarantee of the veterinary services of exporting countries will not be longer allowed to export to our market,” said Sergei Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor.

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