The origin of one-third of all beef meat in our supermarkets is unknown
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    The origin of one-third of all beef meat in our supermarkets is unknown

    © Belga
    Major national supermarkets are alert to the problem of meat traceability.
    © Belga

    One third of all beef meat found in our supermarkets displaying the label “Belbeef” cannot be traced back to its origin. The finding is stated in an investigation by the Belgian Meat Federation (“Febev”) which VRT Nieuws has had sight of. The quality label, which normally is a guarantee of Belgian breeding and processing consequently appears unreliable.

    The origin of beef meat is usually very clear: the number tattooed to the ear of each beast is found on the lot number, printed on the label of the packaging in all supermarkets.

    Abattoirs should ordinarily retain the ear of each animal so as to guarantee traceability, but such action is not always taken. However, “Belbeef”, Febev’s quality label, is the consumer guarantee of eating a piece of beef which is 100% Belgian.

    The federation conducted a traceability exercise, to check whether the system was operating properly. By means of DNA samples from meat on supermarket shelves, they were able to determine whether the codes of origin and the meat to which this number corresponded actually matched. The results are enlightening. First of all, it appeared that only 18 such beast ears were available, out of the 34 sampled, albeit the measure is compulsory by law. Of these only 12 matched.

    According to checks by the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety (“AFSCA”), the problems of labelling and traceability in abattoirs appear in 23% of negative checks. In slaughterhouses, this proportion increases to 38%, even to 54% in meat cold stores.

    VRT Nieuws reports that Colruyt is aware of the problem but meat with the “Belbeef” label continues to be sold.

    The supermarket chain Delhaize which is also aware of the issue specified, on Friday morning in a communiqué, that, “…quality, food safety and traceability are the priority.” It goes on, “In some exceptional cases, we have also identified offences during our own DNA analyses,” blaming “human error and nonchalance.” The company clarifies, “Each time such an incident is found to have taken place, we intensify our procedures so as to avoid it happening again in the future. At no time has there been an impact on quality and food safety.” Delhaize always sells meat labelled “Belbeef”.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times