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Supermarkets remove meat products over food safety breaches
Colruyt and Delhaize supermarket chains have pulled hundreds of fresh and frozen beef and pork products from their shelves as a precautionary measure because of food safety concerns at a major meat processing plant in Wallonia.
Delhaize said it would no longer work with Verbist Group, parent company of the Veviba plant in Bastogne at the centre of the safety scare. Veviba's licence to operate was withdrawn by the federal agriculture minister on Wednesday, after spot checks revealed a potential health risk in two products: minced beef and oxtail.
Inspections by food safety body Afsca on 200 pallets of meat found two thirds of the produce did not meet safety standards.
Analysis of minced beef found traces of "category 3" meat waste - pieces of the carcass intended for animal feed which are prohibited for human consumption. Some frozen meat products also had incorrect dates on their labels.
One union rep told RTL that workers were "afraid to speak out" and that "there was a climate of fear in the company".
He said: "Workers told us about problems including artificially prolonging a product's shelf life. When it arrives with a short date, a label is removed and the product is repackaged with a new date."
Colruyt said it had preventatively removed Veviba products from sale, but that 90% of the meat it sells is cut and processed in-house by its own butchers. Carrefour said it did not use this company and was therefore not affected by the safety scare.
Walloon agriculture minister René Collin said the plant closure had put 300 jobs at risk - and could have bigger implications for the region's livestock industry.
Parent company Verbist - which represents 30% of the Belgian meat market - made headlines last year when undercover video footage from its slaughterhouse in Izegem, West Flanders, showed evidence of animal cruelty.
Photo: Koen Blanckaert/Belga