Russian authorities have begun inspecting meat products on sale in supermarkets for the presence of horsemeat in the wake of the contamination scandal in Europe.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, Rospotrebnadzor, has organised large-scale testing of beef products because of concerns that horsemeat imported from Europe could be on the Russian market.
“It seems there were no direct supplies, but to be certain we decided to check. If we find any of these products, they will be immediately withdrawn from the commercial networks,” said Gennady Onishenko, Russia’s chief medical officer and head of Rospotrebnadzor.
“This again confirms that the system of control over food safety in EU and Western Europe countries does not work, although they are proud of it and even try to teach us. The situation is under the control of Rospotrebnadzor, which aims to prevent these products from entering the Russian market and to provide necessary legislation to protect the rights of consumers.”
The heads of the Russian veterinary watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, have expressed serious concerns that products containing horsemeat labelled as “beef”, which caused a scandal in Europe, could have been exported to Russia.
Experts have warned that this could lead to a ban on imports of EU beef to Russia. Rosselkhoznadzor has not commented on these assumptions so far, but is carrying out strict laboratory control over beef supplies from Europe.
“Rosselkhoznadzor has contacted the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO), demanding that it provides information on the investigation of the cases of counterfeiting of chopped beef, which has been illegally tainted with horsemeat, as soon as possible. It is certainly possible that such products might have reached the territory of Russia,” said a Rosselkhoznadzor spokesperson.
Sergey Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor, said he believed “the scandal that took place in EU after the detection of horsemeat in burgers appeared because of lack of an effective traceability system of [meat] production.”
In an official letter to Rospotrebnadzor, DG SANCO said the investigations had determined so far that no products containing horsemeat had been exported to Russia. It added that Russian authorities would be informed immediately if it was discovered that such exports had taken place.
However, Onishenko said he was not satisfied with this reply. “Representatives of the committee have focused on violations of consumer protection: incorrect labelling, consumer fraud, and so on. The scale of the problem is not clear. How much so-called beef really hit the market? How much horsemeat was used, including with meat with substances that are unsafe for human consumption? This is a key issue to assess the scale of the fraud,” he said.