Anthrax-infected meat knowingly sold in stores: Activists

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) knowingly took risks by not informing consumers that there were meat products in stores at the end of 2014 that may have been contaminated by anthrax. This is according to activist group foodwatch, based on documents from the NVWA.

Anthrax is an infectious disease that can have very serious consequences for those infected. According to the Risk Assessment Bureau (BuRo), there is a 50 percent chance of death for those who were infected by eating the bacteria.

On October 10th last year the NVWA announced that a batch of beef was recalled as a precaution, as two of the processed carcasses came from a Slovak livestock farm where anthrax was found. The BuRo advised the NVWA to withdraw the meat, and the meat of bovine animals who that came into contact with the meat, from the market. They could not rule out that there may be a danger to public health. Consumers were not warned about the product, which they may have already bought or consumed.

Foodwatch finds this unacceptable and filed a freedom of information request on October 16th to retrieve more information. According to the activists, the NVWA still refuses to disclose all the information, from fear that companies could be disproportionately disadvantaged. In the documents that foodwatch did receive the NVWA states several times that no risks should be taken. A letter that the NVWA sent to all recipients on October 16th states: "The effects of anthrax are so severe that even a very small risk can not be accepted". And again in a note sent to State Secretary Sharon Dijksma of Economic Affairs on February 4th: "Given the risks associated with anthrax, the NVWA has decided not to take any risks".

According to foodwatch, the NVWA's words are inconsistent with the actions they took, as they clearly took a risk by not warning consumers to throw the meat away or return it. The activists believe that consumers have the right to know which products are dangerous and state that they will continue to urge the NVWA on full disclosure.