Meat from a Polish slaughterhouse suspected of selling products from sick animals has been sent to at least 13 European countries.

The abattoir in Kalinowo near the town of Ostrów Mazowiecka was secretly filmed slaughtering sick cows by Polish broadcaster TVN. It showed slaughter was carried out at night to avoid official veterinary supervision.

The meat was labeled as inspected by a veterinarian before being sold to meat processing plants and companies in different countries. Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden are currently affected.

The National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) in Romania named the Polish company responsible as Elkopol. The implicated Elkopol is headquartered in Kalinowo with approval number 14160202 and is not related to Elkopol Sp. z.o.o. in Warsaw or Płońsk.

At the request of the European Commission, Poland notified EU countries through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) that beef from the slaughterhouse has been transported to a Polish meat cutting plant and then exported to 11 EU countries.

Polish officials said all activities of the implicated slaughterhouse have been stopped and meat from the slaughterhouse for which no post-mortem inspection was documented has been subject to withdrawal.

The General Veterinary Inspectorate in Poland said that the TVN broadcast presented a “gross violation” of animal protection law, leading to deliberate suffering of farm animals with particular cruelty.

The European Commission said dragging animals that are unable to walk as described in the Polish filming is forbidden by EU legislation on the protection of animals at slaughterhouses.

The agency added all meat destined for human consumption for which there is no full assurance of compliance with EU rules must be taken immediately off the market, especially when there is no certainty that it does not pose animal health or public health risk.

Before being slaughtered all animals must undergo an ante-mortem inspection (investigation of the live animal) in the presence of the official veterinarian. Animals must also have a post-mortem inspection (inspection of the carcass) by or under the responsibility of the official veterinarian.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said inspectors in his team would be in Poland from Monday to assess the situation on the ground.

“The priority is to trace and withdraw from the market all the products originated from this slaughterhouse. I call on the member states affected to take swift action,” he said.

“At the same time I urge the Polish authorities to finalize as a matter of urgency their investigations, taking all the necessary measures to ensure the respect of the EU legislation including effective, rapid and dissuasive penalties against the perpetrators of such a criminal behavior that could pose risk to public health and portrays an unacceptable treatment of animals.”

The Polish Beef Association made a statement saying cases of this type should be stigmatized and prosecuted as it is in everyone’s best interests. It added the footage was an isolated incident and not the principle of the Polish beef production sector.

The French Ministry of Agriculture reported almost 800 kilograms of meat from Poland had been found in nine companies with 500 kilograms already recovered.

Foodwatch France said the scandal shows once again that the prevention and traceability of food is insufficient in European countries, even though regulations make it an obligation.

The consumer group called for transparency on the manufacturers and brands involved in marketing the meat and information on what controls had been carried out and measures are taken.

Lithuanian authorities issued a warning concerning more than 80 kilograms of potentially unsafe Polish beef.

An investigation by the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT) found two Lithuanian companies had purchased beef from a meat processing company called Zaklad mięsny in Poland. The firms affected in Lithuania are UAB Bidfood Lietuva and AB Krekenavos agrofirma.

Inspections at these establishments established that beef was still stored in the warehouses of the companies and not distributed onto the Lithuanian market. Businesses were ordered to destroy the meat.

About 250 kilograms of meat from the Polish slaughterhouse was sold to four smaller companies in different parts of Sweden.

Louise Nyholm, the state inspector at Livsmedelsverket (National Food Agency), said based on current information the Polish company sold meat from sick animals.

“It is a serious violation of food law and completely unacceptable. Nothing indicates that the Swedish companies that bought meat from the Polish company have done something wrong. We do not currently have any suspicions about other Polish meat,” she added.

Companies that, according to officials in Poland, bought the meat in Sweden are Stockholm World AB, Dinc Invest, Globe Food, and Vänern Försäljning AB. All meat has been collected and just under 100 kilograms already consumed.

Polish authorities said about 250 kilograms of illegally slaughtered meat was exported to Finland. However, based on monitoring data of the Polish and Finnish authorities no beef was imported directly to Finland from the slaughterhouse.

Ruokavirasto (Finnish Food Authority) is investigating whether or not meat that was slaughtered illegally has been sold in Finland or is still in stock.

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