The latest developments came after Polish prosecutors initiated a probe into the illegal traffic and slaughtering of sick cattle at a slaughterhouse in Ostrów Mazowiecka, in the country’s central region. Local journalists covertly filmed workers at the facility which, after the footage was aired by local broadcaster TVN, was shut down by the authorities. The Circuit Prosecutor’s Office in Ostrołęka is currently investigating the matter.
French agriculture and food minister Didier Guillaume announced that his ministry had identified nine local companies that were “cheated” by the slaughterhouse, and retrieved 500kg of the meat that was subsequently disposed of. In total, it is estimated that French companies obtained about 800kg of the beef meat, the ministry said in a statement.
Control activities on the rise
The Slovak Ministry of Agriculture said that, in addition to Slovakia and France, the meat from the Polish slaughterhouse was exported to Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania.
The ministry said in a statement it had launched control activities at local meat businesses with the aim to “protect Slovak consumers”.
"Our inspectors have discovered meat from this slaughterhouse at three meat processors in Bardejov, Gaboltov and Bidovce in eastern Slovakia where they are now controlling the facilities in detail," said Slovak agriculture minister Gabriela Matečná.
Jozef Bíreš, director general of Slovakia's State Veterinary and Food Administration, said the agency had launched “intensive targeted inspections of fresh, chilled and frozen beef meat from Poland”, which covers storage facilities, meat processing plants, retail outlets and even commercial vehicles used to transport meat.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture said that inspectors from the country’s State Food and Veterinary Service had found 82kg of “potentially unsafe Polish beef” at the storage facilities of two local meat businesses.
Last week, shortly after the scandal broke out, Sweden’s National Food Agency (NFA) and the Finnish Food Authority (FFA) were among the first European institutions to react and investigate whether the beef was purchased by local meat industry players. The NFA said that “small quantities” of the meat were sold to four Swedish companies.
Meanwhile, at a joint press conference, Poland’s chief veterinary officer Paweł Niemczuk and the country’s chief sanitary inspector Jarosław Pinkas declared that the seized beef meat was tested by sanitary inspectors and, while it originated from illegal slaughter, “it was safe for human health and life” and it “did not pose any biological hazards”.
Niemczuk said that, to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, his institution was now implementing intensified controls at all slaughterhouses in Poland.
“The Polish Sanitary Inspection Service is carrying out continuous monitoring [and] we increased our surveillance over retail activities,” said Pinkas.