February 11, 2019
Poland's abattoir scandal prompts proposal to enhance local veterinary controls
Following an undercover exposé of the alleged slaughtering of sick cows at a local abattoir, Poland could propose a new law this month to strengthen controls at Polish slaughterhouses, Politico reported.
The country, which alerted the EU about the problem on January 29, attributed the issue of illegally slaughtered cows to the improper execution of veterinary controls for bovine meat. According to the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), more than 2,500 kilogrammes of meat from illegally slaughtered cows was sold to 14 EU countries.
In response, inspectors from the European Commission (EC) conducted a four-day audit of Poland's food safety and veterinary controls. The Polish government is "fully cooperating... with EC auditors" said Poland's Permanent Representation to the EU, who stated that the recent case is "an isolated incident."
The results of the audit are expected to be published by March.
In a report by Poland's TVN television, cows, which were purportedly lame, were seen being dragged to slaughter. Despite the scandal, Poland remains confident that Polish meat is still safe for consumption. Jerzy Wierzbicki, head of the Polish Association of Beef Cattle Breeders, expressed the same view and said that meat from the abattoir "had to be withdrawn from the market" as "cow were slaughtered without proper supervision." The abattoir had since been shut down.
In addition, the Polish government described the incident as "an incidental case" and is not representative of the country's veterinary services in general.
Nevertheless, the scandal had prompted the intention of Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski to present a bill by this month.
This bill, according to Ardanowski, would provide the General Veterinary Inspectorate with more control over slaughterhouses. Financial support would also be provided for more full-time veterinarians to carry out inspections. Furthermore, meat producers would pay the inspectorate for the checks rather than directly paying a contracted veterinarian, as is the case now. One other measure the minister called for is the constant video surveillance of trucks transporting livestock and activities inside slaughterhouses.
Known to be a reliable beef exporter to EU markets, Poland now has that reputation tarnished by the abattoir scandal, with Czech Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman hitting at the country's veterinary controls and supervision as not "well-established."
The fallout had led to falling beef prices, which could potentially cost breeders and producers losses of PLN600 million (US$158 million) if the trend continues this year, Wierzbicki said.
Poland exported most of the beef it produced in 2017, according to the Polish Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics. Out of the 560,000 tonnes the country produced, about 470,000 tonnes - or 80% of overall production - was bound for markets outside Poland.