Brussels Brief

Horsemeat tests recommended

THE horsemeat issue is still grabbing the headlines after Agriculture Ministers and member state experts met in Brussels last week.

A Commission plan to detect fraud and stop horsemeat being sold as beef was endorsed by member states and sets out two measures that should be undertaken. The first is an EU wide random testing programme of food marketed as beef and destined for the consumer to ensure that there is no presence of unlabelled horse meat.

Depending on size member states will have to carry out between 10 and 150 tests and positive tests revealing over 1% of horse meat should be notified to the authorities. The second measure is aimed at detecting Phenylbutazone (known as bute) residues in horse meat and one sample for every 50 tons of horse meat is recommended. Bute is a veterinary medicinal product and its use in horses destined for the food chain is illegal.

It was agreed that testing should begin straight away and that a progress report should be published by mid-April. The UK and France also took the opportunity at these meetings to call for EU rules on country of origin labelling for meat in processed products.

Further cuts to direct payments in 2014?

The Brussels agriculture press last week warned that direct payments in 2014 could face further cuts as a result of ‘financial discipline’.

Introduced as part of the 2003 CAP reform, financial discipline is the process by which reductions are made to CAP Pillar 1 payments to ensure spending is kept within the budget ceiling. Although there is still some number crunching to be done, if it is decided that financial discipline is necessary the commission will have to produce a proposal over the coming months. It is unclear as yet how the cuts would be applied.

Kendall re-elected to head EU food chain group

Farming unions and co-operatives from across the EU last week endorsed NFU President Peter Kendall for a further two year term as chairman of their food chain working party.

He outlined priorities including making improvements to the workings of the EU food chain, tackling unfair and abusive practices, to the benefit of farmers, growers and co-operatives.

“Proper rules in the supply chain at EU level are crucial as big retailers and processors are increasingly operating on a pan-European basis. Regulation in one country alone will not prevent abuses in the supply chain across borders,” he said.

With the recently launched green paper on unfair trading practices from the European Commission, Mr Kendall said he would provide “robust leadership” to ensure the EU takes advantage of the opportunity to strengthen the position of farmers in the supply chain.