BRUSSELS: European Union ministers called in Europe's law enforcement agency on Wednesday to help tackle the spreading crisis over mislabelled frozen meals containing horsemeat, and promised rapid DNA food testing in an effort to restore consumer confidence.
''We do not know exactly what has gone wrong,'' the British Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, said after a meeting in Brussels of the countries affected. ''We have to get to the bottom of these cases. This is a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public.''
The European Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said the EU was calling on all 27 member states to carry out DNA tests on beef products to see if they contained horse meat.
Mr Borg said the commission would also urge checks for the equine veterinary drug phenylbutazone, which can be dangerous to humans, in all establishments handling raw horse meat.
In the first month there would be 4000 tests for the drug and another 2500 for horsemeat, with initial results due on April 15.
These proposals will be examined on Friday at an extraordinary meeting of the EU's standing committee on the food chain after a slew of cases in which horsemeat has been found in products supposed to have been made out of beef.
The previous day British police raided two meat plants and France reported cases of horsemeat being passed off as beef in frozen foods. Germany announced a find of suspect lasagne on Wednesday, with similar cases in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway.
Since Britain last week discovered horsemeat in frozen lasagne sold under the Findus label, produced by the French firm Comigel, the scandal has engulfed Europe.
Comigel has denied all wrongdoing, saying one of its subsidiaries bought the meat from another French firm, Spanghero, which said it was supplied by two abattoirs in Romania. Traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands were also reportedly involved in the supply chain.
Romania has repeatedly denied responsibility, and its Agriculture Minister, Daniel Constantin, again insisted that ''all the horsemeat provided by the Romanian companies that was placed on the EU market was correctly labelled''.
An abattoir in northern England and a factory in Wales were shut and all meat seized after raids by British police and officials from the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday.