Consumers suffer three defeats

Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, on the left, and Tonio Borg, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy gave yesterday a joint press conference on the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package. (EC Audiovisual Services).

Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, on the left, and Tonio Borg, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy gave yesterday a joint press conference on the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package. (EC Audiovisual Services).

European consumers suffered three blows yesterday. After having being informed that their beef burgers contained uncontrolled horse meat and secondly that the EU is ready to allow in American GMOs and animal products with hormones, came the Commission to recognise, that safety rules in the non-food product markets are inadequate. On this last issue the European Commission proposed yesterday, “new rules to improve the safety of consumer products circulating in the Single Market and to step-up market surveillance concerning all non-food products, including those imported from 3rd countries”. Let’s take one thing at a time, starting from the most urgent subject, the horse meat.

What horse meat?

The 27 EU ministers of agriculture gathered yesterday in Brussels to hear Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, telling them that, “regarding the unlabeled presence of horsemeat found in certain processed food products, including burgers and beef lasagne…it is important to underline that the evidence to date in relation to this episode does not suggest a health crisis. Horsemeat, according to EU legislation, can be used for the production of minced meat and meat preparations”…

Unbelievably, no one of the 27 minister asked Tonio how he could know that this horse meat did not contain unauthorised substances, since it was introduced in the mincemeat under dark procedures. On top of it is more than certain that the “stuff” is still in circulation and again Tonio has not the means to know, if it is safe prime quality horse meat. From what we know the prime quality horse meat is more expensive than beef.

Consequently, there was no incentive to mix horse meat of acceptable and marketable quality in the beef burgers. So Tonio could have concluded that the horse meat used in this case must have been of non-acceptable quality, that is dangerous. But Tonio didn’t make this simple reasoning, he just rushed to convince everybody that it is safe to continue eat beef burgers with horse meat of unknown origin and quality.

Commissioner Tonio didn’t stop there. He went on by saying that it is “The Member States are responsible for ensuring the proper enforcement of EU rules. Once a food product is put on the market in the EU, it is the responsibility of Member States to check whether or not the product presents a risk and whether it complies with applicable legislation”. As if we didn’t know this. Seemingly stating the obvious is an art at Berlaymont.

Not a word for the completely ineffective EU control system of food sector. Britons were allowed to feed their cows with animal proteins until they turned them mad. Germans were selling food with e-coli unobstructed until people started dying by the tens. In reality, the control system of the food sector is based on the responsibility of the producer. That is why is so ineffective.

But Tonio didn’t find a word about all that. He simply said that nothing is going to change and member states will continue doing what they have being doing so far. In short, we consumers have only God to pray for the next food scandal not to come. As for the advertised DNA controls to be performed on the meat of beef burgers for one month, this is like trying to airlift the undernourished millions in some poverty-stricken region.

Non food

As if there was not enough negative charge in the market atmosphere the EU Commission announced an initiative for “Safer products and a level playing field in the internal market”. Not that there is no need for that, but the timing is bad and reminds us all that the controls performed so far are not adequate. In short the “European Commission proposed today new rules to improve the safety of consumer products circulating in the Single Market and to step-up market surveillance concerning all non-food products, including those imported from 3rd countries”. It was high time to do that.

EU-US trade

Last but not least also yesterday the European Commission announced that the EU is about to start negotiations with the United Sates to conclude a Free Trade Agreement. As the Sting writes today “As for the European consumers, who will be forced to eat American meat with hormones and genetically modified corn, wheat and soya, let them eat what their American counterparts swallow every day and still remain alive…”

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