Wednesday, February 13 09:29:11
Companies that specialise in testing food ingredients stand to gain from increased scrutiny of meat products in the wake of the horsemeat scandal that has spread across Europe since the beginning of the year.
French-listed Eurofins, the largest food testing specialist in Europe, and British firm Intertek both said they had already seen a pick-up in demand.
Customers that routinely send samples to check on the type of meat in products don't seem to be affected, said Bert Popping, director of scientific development at Eurofins. "But we're seeing more samples coming now from companies that have not previously tested those parameters."
Eurofins did the tests which helped to confirm the presence of horse in Irish-produced burgers that sparked the scandal.
The discovery of horsemeat in imported beef products in Britain, blamed by government ministers on "an international criminal conspiracy," has prompted investigations into products and suppliers and calls for tighter regulation.
British and European Union officials will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to decide how to deal with the situation involving several countries in a complex supply chain across the continent.
British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson held meetings on Tuesday with the British Institute of Grocery Distributors to discuss standards for the regular testing of meat products by retailers and what will happen in future.
Any new regulation or tougher enforcement of existing European rules would be a boon to the highly-specialised food testing sector.
"Within the support services group as a whole, regulation is what they thrive on ... it's what drives the whole industry," Robin Speakman, an analyst from Shore Capital, said.
British retailers have already been told by regulators to conduct more authenticity tests on beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, by Friday. As a result, Intertek has seen more business at its food laboratory in Stoke-on-Trent.
"The current demand we are seeing is focused around identification of the cause and scale of the current issue," Chetan Parmar, Intertek vice president of food services, said. ( C) Reuters