The questions that arise after the fraudulent Polish meat scandal

The questions that arise after the fraudulent Polish meat scandal

2.7 tonnes of meat obtained from illegal slaughter in Poland were fraudulently disposed of in the European Union, including nearly 800 kg in France.

This is a new scandal affecting food in France and more widely in Europe. Several countries of the European Union, including France, sought since Friday to locate, to prevent the consumption and destroy it, of, resulting from an illegal slaughter and of which nearly three tons were exported to the EU.

In France, the health services of the Ministry of Agriculture say they have discovered the existence of 795 kg of Polish meat. Of these 795 kg, 500 kg were destroyed and 150 kg were sold to consumers, in butchery in particular. Wanted by the authorities, in batches of meat marketed by wholesalers, butchers or restaurants, “the ministry announced on Saturday evening, ensuring that” part of these batches could be withdrawn from the market.

● Where does this new food and health scandal come from?

The case was exposed by a Polish journalist who was hired at a slaughterhouse in the region of Ostrow Mazowiecka, in the northeast of the country. His investigation revealed that traders offered through classified ads to buy sick cows at a much lower price than healthy animals, raising questions about their use. Filmed images revealed that cows appearing very weak, and potentially sick, were slaughtered at night in the abattoir in question by a few trusted employees, thus escaping official veterinary checks carried out during the day.

Usually, according to the rules set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), it is mandatory to exclude all sick animals from the food chain. Different checks are normally carried out at several levels. First of all, in France, the breeder must identify a possible pathology and treat it by administering drugs under veterinary supervision. Then other checks must be carried out by the veterinary inspection during slaughter, even in the absence of visible clinical signs. “I hope that this case will wake up Europeans with veterinary checks at the borders, so that the same guarantees are offered on imported meat as on meat made in France,” said an official from the French meat industry. Interbev Cattle, Guy Hermouet.

● How did this meat end up in France?

France being a major trading partner of Poland, several batches of this fraudulent meat were imported. The Minister of Agriculture, Didier Guillaume, indicated Friday morning that 795 kg of beef had been bought by “nine companies” of the agri-food sector in France, believing that they had been “duped”. The departmental directorates in charge of the protection of populations (DDPP) conducted the survey in the nine targeted establishments, which “for the most part only carry out a trading activity without handling meat” according to the ministry. On the other hand, the butcheries concerned, which sold the meat in question, have set up posters to warn their customers, said Friday evening the Ministry of Agriculture, which notes that the large distribution is “at this stage Not concerned.

● Will the affected lots be withdrawn?

On Saturday, the last 145 kg of meat were identified by the services of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, the withdrawal from the market of these last batches turns out to be more complex than for the rest because they were mixed with other meats. “The remaining 145 kilograms were identified in batches of meat marketed by wholesalers, butchers or restaurants,” the Ministry of Agriculture announced on Saturday evening in a statement. “A part of these lots could be withdrawn from the market.” A single wholesaler was affected by the last 145 kilograms, but he was only able to destroy a part of them before they were marketed by retailers and other wholesalers, the ministry said.

“What is complicated is that the 145 kilograms were mixed with meats of different origins” by the wholesaler concerned, specified the ministry. “We can no longer identify them as such.” These 145 kilograms were incorporated into a set of 2.4 tonnes, the ministry said, without being able to specify whether it was ground meat or whole pieces. One tonne could have been destroyed by the wholesaler, but the remainder – 1.4 tonnes – was marketed. “At this stage, a few dozen restaurants and butcher shops are concerned, mainly in the Ile de France region, and in the departments of Ille et Vilaine (35) and Loiret (45)”, details the press release. “These figures will be specified at the beginning of next week after consolidation of the data at the national level”, he concludes.

● France, the only country affected by this new scandal?

No, other countries are affected. According to the Polish Veterinary Inspectorate, 2.7 tonnes of this meat were sold in thirteen member countries of the European Union – Germany, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden -, while 7 tonnes were distributed to around 20 points of sale in Poland. And this is unfortunately no surprise: Poland is a major exporter of meat to the continent. Of the nearly 560,000 tonnes of beef produced each year, nearly 85% is exported. In 2013, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Poland was the 11th country which exports the most beef in the world by value, just behind the Netherlands (5th ), Ireland (6th), Germany (7th) and France (9th), at European level.

● Is there a risk in the event of consumption of this meat?

For the moment, information is lacking and does not allow us to be affirmative. . For its part, the European Commission has not expressed a judgment on the quality of the suspect meat. However, she recalled that “the practice of dragging animals unable to walk, as described, is prohibited by European Union legislation on the protection of animals in slaughterhouses”. For Alain Ducardonnet, doctor and health specialist for BFMTV, the degree of dangerous absorption of this meat remains relative. “On rotten meat like that, in my opinion, 95% ends in trivial gastroenteritis with three days of discomfort and everything is fine. We must not dramatize, and even if it has gone into commerce, we must remain nuanced ”.

● How is the traceability of French meat organized in France?

In France, it is impossible to sell French meat without a veterinary stamp, says Guy Hermouet, head of the Interbev Bovins meat interprofessional organization. France has 2,200 veterinary officers in slaughterhouses, who check live animals, followed by carcass checks, and who give slaughterhouses a health score. France has some 200 cattle and sheep slaughterhouses, two of which have just been certified by China, one of the most demanding countries in terms of health. Five are awaiting Chinese certification.

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