Eu debate on labeling – call for controls

Eu debate on labeling - call for controls

Millions of eggs, mainly from lower saxony, are said to have been sold as organic, even though they were not produced in accordance with the regulations. At the EU meeting, germany insisted on a rapid change in EU rules on the labeling of processed foods. German agriculture minister ilse aigner (CSU) wants the country of origin of meat to appear on the package.

So far, such rules exist only for fresh beef, but they are planned for other types of meat. Meanwhile, ikea found horse meat in its meatballs and stopped selling the popular "kottbullar" in 15 countries. Germany has not been affected so far, ikea said monday in hofheim near frankfurt.

"It is clear to me that the labeling must apply to all types of meat and that the country of rearing must appear on the packaging," aigner said at the meeting of EU agriculture ministers on monday. EU consumer commissioner tonio borg reacted cautiously. The scandal over the re-declaration of horse meat as beef had not been changed by a more precise declaration. Deliberate misinformation about the type of meat should not be confused with failure to mention the country of origin, he says.

Aigner’s austrian counterpart niki berlakovich proposed a "european food passport" to identify food products. "When you see that today meat travels through half of europe to arrive back in a food product, consumers have a right to know where the meat comes from."

The green group leader in the european parliament, rebecca harms, saw the scandals involving horsemeat and eggs as being rooted in the system. Global supply chains are too long for real control, and price pressure is strong. She demanded that less money from european pots should go directly to farmers and more, for example, into the demand for regional products.

Aigner sees particular responsibility on the part of the federal states in the organic egg scandal. "The controls, for which the states are responsible, can’t just be carried out from a desk, but you also have to take a look at the farms on site," aigner said in brussel. She went on to say: "if the accusations are true, we are dealing here with fraud on a grand scale: fraud against consumers, but also fraud against the many organic farmers in germany who work honestly."

FDP and grune also demanded stricter controls and payment for the animals. SPD parliamentary group vice-president ulrich kelber calls for cross-border clarification. Aigner must push for central control. The animal protection association proposed a special federal and state commission to investigate the egg and layer scandal. Federal states are responsible for food monitoring.

More staff needed for more effective food inspections in germany, says trade association. In part, one inspector is responsible for 1200 farms. "This prevents us from exerting the traceable monitoring pressure on the industry that would be necessary," said the chairman of the federal association of food inspectors, martin muller, to the "welt" (tuesday). At least 4,000 inspectors are needed nationwide to ensure effective inspections, instead of the current 2,400 inspectors. The civil servants’ association also called for more inspectors to be hired.

Fraud in chicken farming and egg marking is widespread, investigators say. "It seems to have been relatively flat practice," the head of the oldenburg public prosecutor’s office, roland herrmann, told the dpa news agency. His office is investigating about 150 operations in lower saxony. About 50 more procedures have been transferred to other federal states.

A first suspicion exists against two companies in thuringia. In brandenburg, there is a first trial against a farmer who is said to have mislabeled organic eggs. The companies in the netherlands and belgium are also said to be affected. The first proceedings had already been initiated in the fall of 2011, writes "spiegel," which had made the scandal public. The laying hens are said not to have been kept and fed in overcrowded barns in a way that is prescribed for organic eggs.

For the free-range keeping of chickens, at least four square meters of free-range area per chicken are prescribed. Free-range eggs can only be sold as "organic" if they also meet feed requirements. They are also more expensive: in 2012, 10 organic eggs cost an average of 2.86 euros, while the same quantity of free-range eggs cost 1.62 euros and barn eggs 1.20 euros.

The authorities are investigating possible violations of the food and feed code and the organic farming act. Violations could be punished with fines and imprisonment of up to one year. Accusations of fraud also had to be investigated.

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