Minister's advice is buy Czech, not imported foods as horse DNA confirmed

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague

The Czech Republic became the latest country to be hit by the horsemeat scandal on Wednesday, after officials confirmed the presence of horse DNA in frozen lasagne labelled as containing beef. The imported lasagne – sold at a Tesco supermarket in the city of Plzeň – has now been withdrawn as Czech authorities carry out further tests.

Horsemeat, illustrative photo: CTK
The horsemeat scandal has spread to countries across Europe, illustrating the breathtaking complexity of food production and distribution in the EU. It is therefore little surprise that that the Czech Republic, which is home to several major supermarket chains, has been affected.

The first confirmed case comes from Plzeň, in western Bohemia, where officials from the state-run Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority have identified horse DNA in beef lasagne sold in a Tesco supermarket. Pavel Kopřiva is the authority’s spokesman.

“We’ve taken several dozen samples, last week and this week. So far we’ve got the results of laboratory testing from just 10 of them. In 10% of the samples we tested, horse DNA was present in products that were being sold as beef.”

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
The lasagne was sold under the label Nowaco – a trademark belonging to a company called Bidvest, the Czech Republic’s largest distributor of frozen foods. As in previous cases of contamination in Europe, the product was imported from the Luxembourg-based food processing plant Tavola, a subsidiary of the French food processing giant Comigel.

Bidvest informs customers in a statement on its website that it’s now in the process of withdrawing all 3,648 cartons of lasagne imported from Tavola – an order that was placed, it stresses, before the horsemeat scandal broke. Tesco says it’s so far identified 700 cartons of Nowaco lasagne; all have been pulled off the shelves.

Bidvest says its sells no other products made by Tavola, and all orders from the company have been suspended. Bidvest reassures customers that all the rest of its frozen products are processed in its factory in Opava, mostly using meat supplied by Czech producers.

Indeed Agriculture Minister Petr Bendl told Czech Radio his advice to concerned customers was to buy food that had been produced in the Czech Republic, not abroad.

Petr Bendl, photo: Filip Jandourek
“My advice to Czech consumers? Buy Czech products. Buy products that fall under the control of our inspection authorities. Buying Czech products, in my opinion, gives the consumer greater reassurance. Of course we try and check all food products – not just Czech products but imported products as well. Sometimes these things just happen. What’s important is that we have as much information as possible and we’re able to react.”

Food safety officials in both the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe have stressed that eating horsemeat poses no risk to human health. It’s the fact that customers have been deceived that’s causing alarm.