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EU to Propose New Labeling Measures After Horse-Meat Scandal

The European Union will propose new rules on meat-product labels after EU-wide meat testing showed “fraudulent labeling” and no food-safety issues.

“On average there was 4.6 percent presence of horse meat through fraudulent labeling, which is a fraud against the consumer,” EU Health and Consumer-Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg said today in Strasbourg, France. Calling this percentage ‘‘relatively low,’’ Borg said he nonetheless will propose ‘‘new measures to member states in order to decrease the possibility of abuse in the future.’’

The Europe-wide testing of meat products showed ‘‘no food-safety issues’’ from horsemeat DNA and the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, the EU said. Less than 5 percent of the tested products had horse DNA and about 0.5 percent of the equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated with phenylbutazone, known as bute, it said.

The EU indicated that ‘‘tougher penalties’’ should apply in the future for instances of fraudulent labeling.

Borg said his proposals would include ‘‘persuading member states to impose penalties, particularly pecuniary penalties, which would be proportionate to the economic gain which is made by those who indulge illegally in fraudulent labeling.’’ The proposed measures also will include ‘‘a second look at the horse passport system,’’ Borg said.

The horse-meat scandal surfaced in Ireland in mid-January and has affected other countries in Europe and beyond. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on April 4 that it is increasing testing on meat imports to confirm that shipments don’t contain horse meat.

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