Several EU countries on Friday seized and destroyed suspect beef from a Polish slaughterhouse where allegedly sick cows were butchered as French authorities said some of the meat had already been sold to customers.
Warsaw has attempted to reassure affected countries and said that the meat does not pose a health risk.
Poland’s chief veterinarian Pawel Niemczuk confirmed that 2.7 tonnes of the suspect beef was exported, while the European Commission said the meat was traced to 13 member states, where it was being withdrawn and destroyed.
The scare recalls a 2013 scandal in which horsemeat was passed off as beef and used in ready-to-eat meals sold across Europe.
Brussels is to send a team of auditors to Poland to assess the situation on the spot, European Commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru said.
French authorities said 795kg of beef from the slaughterhouse — which has now been closed — had been imported.
More than 500kg have already been seized and destroyed, the French Directorate-General of Food said.
However, about 150kg had been “sold to consumers notably through butchers’ shops,” which were attempting to alert the customers, the French Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement.
Attempts to track down the remaining meat were ongoing, it said.
Nine French companies had been “duped” into importing beef from the abattoir in Kalinowo, a village about 100km northeast of Warsaw, French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume said.
Portuguese authorities said they had destroyed 99kg of suspect Polish beef, while Romania said it had eliminated 1.4 tonnes as a “safety measure.”
The Swedish National Food Agency said that just under 100kg of the total 239kg of suspect Polish beef delivered to the country had already been consumed, while the rest has been seized.
The beef was also exported to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain, the European Commission said.
Niemczuk said another 7 tonnes were sold to about 20 outlets in Poland, but added that tests found it did not pose a health risk.
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