Runners and riders: the horsemeat scandal, EU law and multi-level enforcement.

07 Dec 2017

The free movement of goods is seen as one of the success stories of the European Union. The concept supports a stable supply chain based on price, availability and quality. The daily experience of food shopping reveals the extent to which consumers across the EU enjoy goods from other Member States: Italian pasta, French cheese, Spanish wine and British chocolate. The reality today is that millions of food products are traded between Member States each year without traders going near a court, let alone the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This is the positive dimension of free movement of goods, but there is a darker side too, as revealed by the horsemeat scandal, where ‘beef’ frozen food products were found to contain up to 100 percent horse. The question, then, is how did horsemeat get into the food chain and why did the EU’s food safety regime, premised on the idea of the ‘free movement of safe and wholesome food’, fail to detect it. Was there a failure in the multilevel governance regime which relies so heavily on national enforcement? And will the new legal regime prevent such a food scandal from happening again?