Dutch authorities say that some 50,000 tons of meat sold as beef by two Dutch wholesalers across Europe may contain horsemeat.
The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) said in a statement on Wednesday that the meat sold by Wiljo Import-Export and Willy Selten Meat Wholesalers is being recalled because its exact source cannot be established.
Authorities said they had sent letters to about 130 known clients of the two wholesalers in the Netherlands to “take it (the meat) off the market as a precautionary measure” and “verify all products.”
Benno Bruggink, a spokesman for the NVWA, said that the order applied to meat with a sell-by date between the beginning of 2011 and February 2015. Much of it may have been consumed already.
“We do not have any indications of problems for public health, but because we cannot guarantee where the meat comes from — the origin is not certain — we are saying this is not fit for human consumption,” Bruggink said.
The food watchdog said that it had also written to 370 groups across Europe to check the meat.
“The companies have possibly already processed the meat and sold it,” the NVWA noted in its statement.
Dutch politicians reacted angrily to the NVWA’s announcement, with Marianne Thieme, leader of the Party for the Animals, saying she would ask for a parliamentary debate on Thursday.
Marianne Thieme said she wanted a debate to find out how the NVWA was unaware of the meat’s origin.
“This is massive, 50,000 tons of meat, how many meals is that? How will all of this be traced?” she asked.
“Consumers need to know what they are eating,” said Sjoera Dikkers of the Dutch Labor Party who is in a ruling coalition with Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
Wednesday’s announcement is the latest development in the far-reaching meat scandal that saw horsemeat mixed with beef.
Horsemeat was first detected in frozen meals and burgers in the United Kingdom and Ireland in January 2013, and traces have since been found in meat products across the continent.
On February 9, French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said the horsemeat had originated in Romania, although there were links with French, Dutch and Cypriot firms and a factory in Luxembourg.
Romania denied the charges, with Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin insisting that “all the horsemeat provided by the Romanian companies that was placed on the EU market was correctly labeled.”
The scandal has raised questions about the complexity of the food industry’s supply chains across the EU bloc, with a number of supermarket chains withdrawing frozen beef meals from their shelves.
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