Commenting on the horse meat situation, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead said:
“The issue of horsemeat in the food chain is one that is being taken very seriously by both the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Scotland. I had a helpful discussion with UK Secretary of State Owen Paterson earlier today where we agreed that the issue surrounding horsemeat remains one of mislabelling and potential fraud with there being no evidence of any implications for human health at present.
“It is unacceptable that consumers are being misled and this cannot be tolerated. Given that the relevant labelling regulations are set at EU level, I discussed with Mr Paterson the need to fully engage the European Commission. It is also vital that this issue is firmly on the agenda of Europe’s agricultural ministers so consumers can be assured that action is being taken to make sure there is no repeat of the horsemeat scandal.
“It is important to point out that not all products containing beef have been affected. Products with the Scotch label are accredited under farm assured schemes and are amongst the best quality that be found anywhere. I urge customers to look for the Scotch label to ensure they are able to enjoy some of the best meat products in the market place.”
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said:
“I would stress that no food safety risks have been identified so far. The FSA has implemented a programme of food inspections, including premises in Scotland which supply schools, hospitals and prisons, to identify any products which may have been affected.
“So far, no Scottish businesses have been implicated in this scandal. However, we are not complacent. The FSA will continue to advise the public on which food products, if any, should be avoided, and to provide expert advice to Scottish Ministers on what action should be taken by Government. Indeed the FSA is continuing to demand the food industry do more testing of their beef products to give consumers confidence in what they are buying.
“In Scotland, the FSA retains responsibility for food labelling policy unlike in England where responsibility was transferred in 2010 to Ministers. We have therefore urged the UK Government to ensure Scotland is involved in taking forward an action plan on improved testing and labelling.”
The Food Standards Agency is an independent government department working across the UK putting the interests of consumers first in relation to food. Food safety and standards are devolved matters. In Scotland, the FSA provides advice to Scottish Ministers and is accountable to the Scottish Parliament. During the handling of this incident the FSA has been working closely with Scottish Ministers to provide advice and, with Local Authorities, on the development of an additional series of Food Standards inspections of manufacturers of relevant meat products.
Scottish Ministers have taken a proactive approach to this incident from the outset. On the January 25, 2013 Scottish Ministers wrote to the relevant Scottish Parliamentary Committees setting out additional action they asked FSA to undertake in Scotland.
This is in addition to the FSA’s UK wide authenticity survey which will see 28 Local Authorities from across the UK gathering 224 formal samples in accordance with a detailed protocol. These samples will be taken from a range of businesses and will include those outlets supplying food to the public sector (schools and hospitals).
The additional food standards inspections in Scotland involves all Local Authorities who have meat processing businesses. This work is under way. Local authorities will report their findings to the FSA, who will then provide advice to Scottish Ministers.