EU must protect citizens against dangerous and cruel third country imports

The EU has so far been unable to protect citizens' health and animal welfare in importing food from third countries, writes Stefan Eck.

By Stefan Eck

22 Jul 2015

When it comes to relations with third countries, the EU must give more consideration to food security, as it has proven unable to protect consumers' health from dangerous products imported into European markets, as has been the case with China.

The country ranks first in terms of the most serious food safety standard violations. The most recent incident involved smuggling in €436m worth of rotten meat, some of which was over 40 years old. Most of it had allegedly been imported from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, in non-refrigerated containers so as to keep transport costs down.

In July last year, an investigative report revealed that workers in a factory run by Shanghai Husi - part of American food supplier OSI group - had allegedly changed the expiry dates for old meat.


An email supposedly sent by factory management instructed employees to extend the expiry dates of 10 tonnes of frozen beef. The meat - which the report claimed was already rotten - was reprocessed and repackaged.

The scandal affected Starbucks, Burger King, Papa John's and Yum Brands, as well as the owners of KFC and Pizza Hut, who were all being supplied by OSI group.

The same day the rotten meat scandal was unveiled, Chinese authorities ordered three milk brands to recall products containing nitrate and selenium. The quality of milk is a highly sensitive topic in China. In 2008, six children died and another 300,000 fell ill after consuming milk that contained melamine.

Due to the large scale of international trade, contaminated products have also reached other countries. In September 2012, 11,000 people in Germany became ill after eating frozen strawberries from China; China is currently the world's leading global producer of strawberries.

The country has also seen scandalous abuses in the context of animal welfare. According to research by people for the ethical treatment of animals (PETA), several farms in China do not shear rabbits when extracting angora wool - the fell is plucked, causing extreme pain for the animals.

Our citizens' health is at stake, therefore the EU must take these issues seriously. We need guidelines to prevent the import of products linked to cruel treatment of livestock, as the EU is not just an economic community - it is also a community of values, and animal welfare is an important one.

We cannot simply allow such items to enter our markets, without first making sure they were produced, packaged and transported in accordance with the same standards European producers and industry must abide by.

These rules should also extend to trade agreements with third countries, which would help increase food safety and animal welfare standards in these parts of the world.


Read the most recent articles written by Stefan Eck - Ban on animal testing cosmetics: Is the EU on the right track?

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