Meat scandal continues

The horsemeat scandal that has rocked Europe has seen reverberations in Portugal, and continues to worry the public about the genuine content of the beef they are buying in the supermarkets or at restaurants.

Ironically, a contrary opinion has emerged that suggests the widespread media coverage has led to a desire among some curious consumers to taste horsemeat for the first time, although there is no evidence to confirm this.

Meanwhile, more companies find themselves involved in the controversy.

In Portugal, horse meat has been found in lasagna marketed by Nestlé exclusively for hotels and restaurants. But Nestlé is just another on the list of Europe’s top food companies involved. First, a story appeared in the United Kingdom and Ireland where major supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi allegedly sold beef products, such as burgers, that contained horsemeat.

The brand Euroshopper, which sells lasagnas among other products, is also under inspection since horsemeat was found in their products. Euroshopper lasagnas are on sale in stores of the Recheio Cash & Carry chain and are normally supplied to hotels, restaurants and cafés.

The food was stored in the deep freeze warehouses of the group Jerónimo Martins, which has denied selling the Euroshopper brand to the Pingo Doce supermarkets. In a statement, the group said: “The meat lasagna product of the Euroshopper brand is not sold by the Pingo Doce Company and, therefore, is not available in any store of the chain. The Euroshopper brand is not owned by the Jerónimo Martins Group and should not be mistaken by any of our private brands.”

All of the lasagna packets have been withdrawn from Recheio’s 38 shops.

Dangerous bacteria in mincemeat

Meanwhile, mincemeat sold in butcher shops in Portugal, analysed in a study published in the magazine Proteste by the Portuguese consumer protection body DECO, has shown to contain bacteria and microorganisms dangerous to health and could even be fatal.

Nuno Dias, who led the study, told Correio da Manhã newspaper that fecal contamination in the meat is not only the result of lack of hygiene in those who handle the production process. He stressed that it can also occur during the slaughtering of the animal when waste matter in the intestines infects the meat.

He claimed that the contaminated meat, which can cause salmonella or listeria, has been detected in butchers and also supermarkets.

Depending on the quantity consumed and the health of the person, it could have fatal consequences, he said.

Prohibited preservatives to restore the natural colour and freshness of the meat were also detected in the DECO investigation.

The Portuguese food safety organisation (ASAE – Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica) had also discovered on Thursday February 21 a total of 12,410 packets of beef lasagna suspected of containing horsemeat. The product will be analysed to confirm the suspicion or otherwise.

IKEA meatballs not made with horsemeat

On Tuesday, February 25, in the Czech Republic, horsemeat was found in 760 kilos of frozen meatballs in IKEA, which decided to suspend the sale of meatballs in its stores in all European countries, except Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Poland.

The meatballs sold by IKEA are typically made with pork and beef. Besides Portugal, the batch of meat was also withdrawn from other stores including in Belgium, Cyprus, Slovakia, Spain, France, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and the UK.

In the last two weeks, the company had been tracking all meat products sold in Portugal and after sending samples of meatballs to be properly analysed, no traces of horsemeat had been found, confirmed IKEA on Wednesday. However, wiener sausages sold by the Swedish group were withdrawn the same day after “a few indications of horsemeat” were found, releaved the company.

“IKEA does not accept any other ingredients other than those stipulated in our recipes and specifications, which are supervised and follow established standards, certifications and analysis in accredited laboratories,” stressed the Swedish group.

Two weeks ago, the Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health of the European Union approved a plan to unveil the presence of horsemeat in food throughout Europe. One of the issues on the table and that the French President, François Hollande, wants to see changed is the reference to the origin of meat in processed products.

Until now, processed meat products were accompanied by the percentage of each meat type and therefore did not include the origin.

American food politics expert Marion Nestle wrote: “The unfolding drama surrounding Europe’s horsemeat scandal is a case study in food politics and the politics of cultural identity. In some countries they eat horsemeat. We don’t.”

The horsemeat fraud began in mid-January when food inspectors detected horsemeat in frozen beef burgers sold in supermarket chains, including Tesco, the UK’s top retailer.