Berlin: Germany has unveiled plans to tighten the control of food products containing meat and introduce an `early warning system` aimed at restoring consumers` confidence shattered by Europe`s widening horsemeat scandal.
Presenting a `national action plan` in Berlin, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner yesterday said that in addition to the DNA tests of beef products approved by the European Union on Friday, Germany will conduct its own tests on a variety of ready-to-eat food items for the presence of unlabelled horsemeat.
The tests are also intended to determine whether they contained veterinary drug Phenylbutazone used to treat horses, which is harmful to human health.
"Europe-wide tests can only scratch the tip of an iceberg. In Germany, we want to go beyond that and extend the tests to other meat varieties," she told a news conference.
Aigner said the planned tests could be launched jointly by the federal and state governments at the end of this month and they may be carried out till the end of April.
The government also plans to set up an internet portal and a telephone hotline service to provide consumers the latest information on withdrawal of products from the market and other developments of their interest.
Germany will also seek from the European Union a new regulation, which will make it obligatory for all companies throughout the EU to identify the country of origin of their meat products, the minister said.
In an interview published yesterday, Aigner said the dimension of the horsemeat scandal appeared to be much bigger than believed until now and there are indications that more European companies are involved.
She described the discovery of horsemeat in ready-to-eat meals sold across Europe as a "well planned and good organised deception of consumers".
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Agriculture and Consumer Protection ministry said around 179,000 packets of lasagne containing horsemeat labelled as beef were supplied to Germany.
The spokesman said it is unclear whether they are still in circulation. They are believed to have come from frozen food processor Comigel, which produced 4.5 million ready-to-eat meals at its plant in Luxembourg from 750 tonnes of horsemeat from Rumania marketed by Spanghero, a wholesaler of meat in southern France.
Comigel is reported to have supplied its products to at least 28 companies in 13 European countries, according to the French authorities.
Spanghero`s licence was suspended by the French authorities, accusing it of marketing Rumanian horsemeat in Europe labelled as beef, a charge it strongly denies.