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Sweden to DNA test meat products nationwide

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14:49 CET+01:00
Sweden is planning to DNA test everything from meatballs to hamburgers in a bid to crack down on suspected mislabelling of horsemeat as beef, after frozen food company Findus found horsemeat in its ready-meals.

Meatballs, hamburgers, minced meat and lasagnes are on the hit list of the Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket), which plans to perform between 50 and 100 tests nationwide.

The agency said tests may be run in school canteens and in hospital kitchens, alongside testing ready-made meals, and expects to compile the results by the end of March.

Swedish retailers have already removed six different brands of ready-to-eat lasagne meals from their shelves on suspicions that they contain horsemeat.

The agency performed similar tests last year after up to 20 tonnes of frozen meat labelled as beef turned out to be dyed pork.

Swedish Green Party MEP Carl Schlyter said he was not surprised by the food scandal sweeping Europe.

“Stores have their own brands to build credibility, but it offers a false sense of security,” Schlyter told the TT news agency.

“They have no control of what produce is being used in the products.”

He blamed the intense consumer focus on low-price produce in Europe.

“This is a systemic problem on the European food market, especially when stores run low-cost campaigns. The entire food inspection system in the EU relies on producers doing their own inspections,” he pointed out.

“So it's tempting to break the law and produce false papers.”

Of the products already removed from Swedish food store shelves, all six were made by Comigel, the French firm that produced the Findus lasagne sold in the UK, which turned out to purely contain horsemeat.

The Swedish subsidiary of Findus said on Sunday that it was preparing a lawsuit against Comigel over the scandal.

Louise Ungerth, head of consumer policy at Consumer Cooperative Society

(Konsumentföreningen) in Stockholm, said she saw similar problems with the low-price focus that Carl Schlyter elaborated on.

”Swedes are obsessed with prices, stores need to lure consumers all the time,” she told TT.

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Ungerth's organization has long lobbied for clearer information about the provenance of meat products.

“We see it over and over again in consumer surveys that people want to know where the meat comes from”, she said.

“The industry says it's too complex and expensive, but if you can print a best-before date on the packaging, how difficult can it be to print a two-letter indication of what country the produce comes from.”

TT/The Local/at

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