Concern about horsemeat found in processed "beef" food products across Europe has been raised by a Europe-wide animal welfare organisation.
Eurogroup for Animals said it was "extremely alarmed" by the current situation surrounding the discovery of horsemeat in food products labelled as beef across Europe. "This discovery raises major concerns for both consumer safety and animal welfare, as the lack of transparency within the food processing sector from farmers to supermarkets prevents us from knowing where the animals involved were raised, transported and slaughtered," it said.
The organisation said that food producers and European legislators "must take their responsibilities seriously". According to the organisation, responsibilities cannot overlooked if the industry is to ensure all animals destined for the food chain are treated with respect. It also said clear records should be kept, to ensure the relevant legislation has been respected, as well as to maintain a clear supply chain and appropriate animal welfare.
Director of Eurogroup for Animals Reineke Hameleers said the European Commission "has to act now" to ensure all existing animal welfare legislation is enforced in every EU member state, so as to ensure all meat and live animals imported from third countries will meet the same standards.
"The current situation where horses and millions of other animals are transported extremely long distances every year, often in terrible conditions, must stop in order to improve animal welfare and traceability," she added.
Hameleers concluded: "Consumers have a right to know where the products they buy originate from and that they meet high animal welfare standards. Retailers must be much more transparent and accountable and show they respect animal welfare and consumer safety."
According to the organisation, the horsemeat issues "clearly demonstrate" that some producers are unable to "efficiently apply" the correct procedures when producing food. As such, it said: "Thus, Eurogroup reasonably wonders whether business operators will be able to adopt and control practices during transport and in abattoirs which protect the welfare of animals."