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22 Feb, 2013 11:08

Dark horse: Russia considering European beef ban over meat scandal

Dark horse: Russia considering European beef ban over meat scandal

Meat products from Europe may be banned in Russia following the news of unsanitary horseflesh being sold under the guise of beef in several EU states.

Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s main goods quality watchdog, has already demanded additional quality guarantees from the European Union, with checks of imported meat taking place at markets and shops across the country.

"Refrain from lasagne and hamburgers – being cautious never hurt anybody,” Gennady Onishchenko, chief sanitary inspector, is cited as saying by ITAR-TASS. “What’s more, Russian meat is now available on the market."

"Please give us additional guarantees, otherwise we’ll have to ban the import of [meat] until this situation is sorted out,” he added.

Meanwhile, Britain's food regulator, the Food Standards Agency said on Friday it had found another 35 positive tests for horsemeat in beef products, confirming the latest contaminations in a scandal spreading across Europe. It said these products have already been named and withdrawn from sale and added that no tests to date on samples containing horse DNA have found the veterinary medicine phonylbutazone (bute), Reuters reports.

There was another spin in the European horsemeat scandal on Wednesday when Romanian police discovered around 100kg of horsemeat at one of the warehouses in Bucharest, which was intended to be sold under the guise of beef.

The incident was preceded by several cases of horse DNA found in beef hamburgers sold in supermarkets in Ireland, Italy and Sweden.

Experts have labeled the move price fraud, with horsemeat being between 20 and 30 per cent cheaper that beef.

The two types of meat have similar structure and are difficult to distinguish from one another by an ordinary customer, especially when processed in a burger or lasagne.

The differences are revealed only in cooking, with beef changing its original color and horseflesh remaining dark red or brown.

But what raises the biggest concern is the presence of phenylbutazone in the horsemeat, as the anti-inflammatory drug, widely used to treat horses, poses a threat to human health.

According to doctors, it may lead to such negative effects as suppression of white blood cell production, aplastic anemia and cancer.

The meat fraud in currently investigated by Europol and law enforcement in individual EU states.

It’s believed that the horseflesh disguised as beef is produced in Romania and Poland, processed in France and then delivered to UK under false labels, with some of the dangerous meat then being re-exported to Spain, Holland, back to France and to other European countries. Possibly including Russia.

"There must be a map showing the map of the meat’s route to the shop shelves must as this route is often very confusing, with no one knowing through how many hands the product went through,”
Armin Valet, nutrition expert at Hamburg’s Consumer Protection Society, told  Russia’s Channel One.

On February 10, Russia put a ban on frozen beef, pork and turkey from the US as it contained  ractopamine, which is used to increase muscle mass in pigs and cattle, and is potentially dangerous for people with heart problems.