Italy shuts another major meat lab as crisis worsens

By Perugia Police Spokesman Riccardo Magi, for CNN • Published 14th August 2020

A third laboratory in Perugia is shutting down in the wake of the biggest contamination scare Italy has ever faced.

Officials confirmed that a test on Wednesday found two million-vials of amino acids which contaminated imported dried meat products from an Italian firm, Fourstar Foods, at a test laboratory in central Italy.

The chaff was “incompatible with normal concentrations of amino acids,” according to the study by the Institute of Applied Research in Specialty Foods at Milan Polytechnic.

The Italian farm police have now confirmed that a total of 21 factories and laboratories handling meat products have been closed.

The mass suspension of meat products has now left thousands of travelers with cancelled holidays and residents with the shopping prospect of huge meat purgatory as restaurants and supermarkets struggle to get their food supplies back in stock.

Authorities have found so far only one-third of imported meat products from the affected European Union countries back in the consignment — some 9,000 units which came from Korea — and are inspecting three companies which imported from those countries.

The lab, in which news media have been given access since the last laboratory closed down, had already found last week that some 5,000 vials of chaff contamination-prone cultures have found their way into EU-approved meat products.

This month’s latest horror at a meat processing plant in Italy came after three buildings housing labs for animal pathogens such as salmonella, campylobacter and listeria were confirmed in a suspected chemical contamination incident at Fourstar Foods on Saturday, sending the shockwave through the industry.

The law enforcement authorities are now reportedly handling up to 130,000 tests for the threat posed by these contaminants. The laboratory which had been suspended on Saturday has now been shut down permanently.

The officer overseeing the investigation into the contamination scare said that some 500 hours of surveillance had been taken up and traces of 36 additives had been found by the authorities.

In July, a recent Belgian chicken company also announced that it was halting a few weeks of business, along with several animal feed companies.

A spokesman for Italy’s Agriculture Ministry said that 400 million-to-500 million euros ($511-555 million) worth of meat imports to Italy had been canceled and that a new batch of tests was being carried out on a thousand refrigerated trucks.

The crisis response from senior Italian authorities has been swift and much praised.

“We are not at the point of being able to make a judgment whether the contaminated meat products are serious or not,” Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina said.

“Our first concern is to stop this horrific, disgusting, criminal activity (in a sequence of laboratories). At the moment there are no indications to say that we have reached the end of this matter.

“We are reducing the losses that we suffered. That’s the most important thing right now.

“For us, just starting to blame is going too far. We have to do everything we can to fight this crime. We believe in legal and scientific justice.”

Leave a Comment