Europe to tighten up food fraud rules after horsemeat scandal

The European Parliament has passed new rules that aim for "tougher food inspections from farm to fork" to root out fraud, and stop another repeat of the 2013 horsemeat scandal.

The new laws aims to create a "comprehensive, integrated and more effective control system in the areas of food and feed safety rules, veterinary and plant health requirements, organic production and protected geographical indication rules," the EP said in a statement.

This comes four years after reports first surfaced that horse DNA had been discovered in frozen beef burgers sold in several Irish and British supermarkets, but had until then managed to escape detection.

While not intrinsically dangerous to consumer health, this issue raised grave concerns over how unlisted ingredients could find their way into the food chain and not be instantly detected, and questions over when and where in the chain this happened.

To help combat this, the deal between MEPs and European Council of Ministers will see greater controls on food, feed, plant health, pesticides, animal welfare, geographical indications, and organic farming.

There will also be surprise, risk-based controls in all sectors, as well as better enforcement against those looking to commit food fraud or deception.

It will in essence allow food to be traced and tracked better; levy fines against guilty companies; and make countries look more closely into the goings on in their own food industry. It also has the implied aim of restoring consumer confidence after the events of 2013.

Around 9 months ago, European rule makers had informally agreed to a draft form of these rules, but this week pushed them through, with them set to take affect by the end of the decade.

Rapporteur Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT), said: "After the horse meat scandal, consumers had serious questions about the traceability of food, and the integrity of the meat supply chain. The European Parliament strove to address these concerns and to end up with a text that allows competent authorities to effectively combat fraudulent practices.

"I am also proud that Parliament managed to have the chapter on enforcement strengthened, in particular regarding the penalties to be applied in the event of intentional violations of the rules. I trust that really deterrent penalties will be a key tool to combat fraud in every area."

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