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USDA Boosts Testing to Block Horse-Meat Imports After EU Scandal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is increasing testing on meat imports to confirm that shipments don’t contain horse meat after products from burgers to lasagna were mislabled in Europe.

“We are confident that the inspection system at ports of entry ensures the safety of products that come into our country,” Cathy Cochran, a spokeswoman for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said in an e-mailed statement today. “However, in response to recent events and consumer concerns, we are increasing species testing to enhance current safeguards and prevent fraudulently labeled products from entering the country.”

The FSIS will conduct species sampling and testing on imported raw ground-beef and veal that are also checked for Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli, the agency said in an April 1 notice. Imports from Iceland, Ireland, Poland and the United Kingdom will be subject to increased species sampling for all types of product.

A horse-meat scandal that started in Ireland in mid-January spread around the world. Ikea, the largest furniture retailer, removed its signature Swedish meatballs from its restaurants, while Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell withdrew ground beef from its three U.K. restaurants. The European Union has ordered testing across the region, while South Africa, spurred by European discoveries, is investigating how unlabeled donkey, goat and water buffalo got into supermarket products.

None of the countries or companies in the EU that have recently recalled beef because of non-disclosed horse meat ship beef to the U.S. FSIS doesn’t allow imports of horse meat from other countries to the U.S. for human consumption, according to the agency.

-- With assistance from Alan Bjerga in Washington and Shruti Singh in Chicago. Editors: Millie Munshi, Steve Stroth

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