Poland admits exporting suspect beef to ten EU partners

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Warsaw (AFP)

Poland exported nearly three tons of beef from illegally slaughtered cattle to ten of its EU partners, the country's chief veterinarian said on Thursday after a TV report showed sick cows being butchered for food.

Pawel Niemczuk told reporters that the 2.7 tonnes of suspect beef sold to other EU members was being recalled after authorities were able to trace it to buyers in Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

"The distribution lists have been established and the goods are being recalled," he said, adding that some countries had already destroyed the meat.

Another seven tons of beef from illegally slaughtered cattle were sold to some 20 outlets in Poland, Niemczuk said.

Prosecutors launched a criminal probe into the case after Poland's commercial TVN24 news channel aired footage of sick cows being abused and then butchered at a slaughterhouse in Kalinowo, a village some 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of the capital Warsaw.

The facility has been closed but EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said that a team of inspectors from Brussels were due to visit it next Monday.

Poland's Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski called the case an "isolated incident", adding that he had ordered inspections at slaughterhouses across the country.

While Poland is a leading pork supplier in the European Union, it produces only around 560,000 tonnes of beef a year. Nearly 90 percent of it is exported.