Paterson said the meeting, which had been requested by the UK, was arranged to deliver “coordinated action” across Europe in order to regain consumer confidence following horsemeat in the food chain.
He said an agreement had been reached on a number of key issues “so that the current unacceptable situation with horsemeat cannot happen again”.
He added: “Importantly, we will introduce a three-month programme of random DNA testing of beef products, whether made in the EU or imported from elsewhere. It will begin 1 March and the first results will be published on 15 April.”
Paterson also said an agreement was made on a new intelligence-sharing system to allow information on current testing to be shared immediately. He said: “This will enable other member states to act straight away if they have any suspicions that food businesses are not playing by the rules. It will also allow Europol to co-ordinate investigations into criminal activity.”
Processed meat labelling
It was also agreed that, because of the urgency over dealing with the horsemeat scandal, European Commission recommendations on labelling the origin of all processed meat should be published as quickly as possible. He said this was to allow consumers more certainty on where their meat is coming from.
Paterson concluded: “As we requested, what we’ve agreed will now be ironed out in an emergency meeting of food experts on Friday and in the next meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 25/26 February.”