(CN) - EU regulators moved swiftly to quash a growing scandal in which food distributors have been caught marketing horse meat as beef.
Food safety authorities in Ireland announced earlier this month that DNA tests of meat labeled as beef was actually up to 80 percent horse meat. While those products had been sold to frozen-meat vendors, the Miami, Fla.-based Burger King also confirmed that burgers it had sold in the United Kingdom and Ireland contained some horse.
Meanwhile, U.K. food safety officials said Friday that they had found horse meat in school meals, hospital food and restaurants across Britain - leading European countries to jump on board with a European Commission plan to look for mislabeled meat.
"I welcome the swift approval by the member states of the plan I tabled two days ago and I call on them to keep up the pressure in their efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events," EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg said in a statement. "Consumers expect the EU, national authorities and all those involved in the food chain to give them all the reinsurance needed as regards what they have in their plates."
While selling and consuming horse meat is not illegal in the EU, selling horse meat as beef is. Regulators say the plan will test up to 2,250 samples of meat marketed as beef, mainly at the retail level, for the presence of horse and other non-beef products.
Under the plan, member states will also test for possible residues of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory often used in horses that destroys white blood cells in human bone marrow. The use of the drug in food producing animals is illegal in the EU, and the plan calls for one sample testing for every 50 tons of horse meat - with each member state carrying out a minimum of five tests.
Member states must report their findings to the commission during the study, which could last up to three months. When meat tests positive for horse, the country that certified the animals for slaughter will also be reported, regulators said.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.