Nearly three tons of suspect meat from Polish companies involved in an escalating food safety scandal have now spread to 12 countries in the EU, health authorities confirmed Thursday.
Poland’s chief vet Pawel Niemczuk told a news conference that out of 9,500 kilograms of fraudulently slaughtered meat coming from two Polish companies, 2,700 kilograms had been exported to other EU countries.
“I have convinced most of the countries that this situation in Poland was an individual case,” Niemczuk said. “The ware is being voluntarily withdrawn.”
He said the meat involved was not a threat to human health, and that the owners of the slaughterhouse involved would be prosecuted.
Having already been identified in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden, food safety authorities in Slovakia late Wednesday also confirmed its presence at three processing plants in the country. In Lithuania, food safety authorities said they banned around 82 kilograms of potentially unsafe Polish beef from being placed on the market.
News of the suspect meat in the European food chain emerged last week after reporters from Superwizjer, a Polish investigative TV program, infiltrated a Polish slaughterhouse in the central region of Mazovia late last year and were made to mark rotten meat as safe, even though they were not qualified veterinarians.
Footage also showed people dragging animals that were unable to walk to slaughter.
The European Commission is sending health experts to Poland on Monday to monitor how Warsaw deals with the scandal.
“The priority today is to trace and withdraw from the market all the products originated from this slaughterhouse,” European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement, urging EU countries to take “swift action.”
According to EU food safety rules, all animals have to undergo an ante-mortem inspection in the presence of the veterinary official before being slaughtered.
The last major food fraud scandal in the EU was in 2017 after a toxic pesticide product called fipronil contaminated eggs in Belgium. That case prompted widespread criticism of Belgium’s food safety authority, which admitted to knowing that some poultry farms had used fipronil for months before it warned other countries or the European Commission.