This is according to FEBEV - the national Belgian federation of slaughterhouses, Belgium’s farmers’ union, its meat industry and retailers.
They issued a joint statement following Belgian food safety agency AFSCA’s announcement that Hong Kong, Ivory Coast and Kosovo had received falsely labelled, out-of-date or even inedible meat distributed by Wallonia-based food company Veviba.
FEBEV spokesperson Michael Gore said most meat affected was frozen, although about 100kg of fresh meat was involved, used in minced meat and meat preparations. “What we have [essentially] is traceability issues in the cold store,” he explained to GlobalMeatNews.
Meanwhile, an AFSCA inspection in February found 133 of Veviba’s 200 meat pallets did not conform to national food safety standards. The company, responsible for 30% of Belgium’s meat market and delivering to Colruyt and Delhaize supermarkets, has had its licence revoked.
The Liaison Centre for the EU Meat Processing Industry’s secretary-general Dirk Dobbelaere told GlobalMeatNews: “These people must be penalised and charged financially.”
Gore said FEBEV was actively collaborating with the federal ministry of agriculture to see how to speed up the inspection process. “We will increase checks, adding more requirements and guarantees linked to fraud and fraud prevention,” he told GlobalMeatNews.
“We will also have meetings with certification bodies to see how we can improve systems in place to assess traceability trials.”
According to Gore, “more controls” were not essential, but he added: “We need to see how to optimise what we have and how to cross-link information from companies, governments and private scheme owners.”
In the end, it was the responsibility of the whole food chain to ask questions, he said. If suppliers put food on the market at a price “too competitive to be true”, they should ask, “is this legally possible and can we put in place some kind of communication system to highlight this kind of issue?”
He added Hong Kong, Kosovo and Ivory Coast were also to blame. The case highlighted that “fraud is everywhere, and we need to see how to stop it and how to enforce processes”, he said.
Gore welcomed an upcoming study from Belgian federal government body SPF Economie into increasing controls by investigating different price margins in the food chain.
The report is expected soon, he said. “But as only a few stakeholders are involved, we’ll have to see the final publication before putting in our recommendations,” he added.
When contacted, Brussels-based Hong Kong, Ivory Coast and Kosovo attachés could not comment on the case.