DUBAI // French meat at the region's biggest food industry event next week will be subjected to stringent checks to ensure it is not contaminated with horse meat.
French beef will make its first appearance at Gulfood, having only been allowed into the country last year. It was banned in the wake of the 1980s European mad cow disease outbreak.
Yesterday, the French trade commissioner in the UAE said every shipment of the meat would be strictly controlled.
It comes at a time when European beef is newly embroiled in scandal, with beef products in several countries having been found to contain large amounts of horse meat.
"When we export meat products, we take even stronger controls than if it were for the local market," said François Sporrer, the UAE's trade commissioner for France.
"We need certificates from our veterinary authorities so every batch is controlled and I can guarantee that it will be real bovine meat."
Event organisers will also monitor the food by ensuring no samples are taken out by visitors.
"If any food is not disposed of during the exhibition, it has to be cleared out," said Trixee Loh, Dubai World Trade Centre's senior vice president.
As the horse meat scandal spreads, France has closed a beef processing plant owned by Comigel, which supplied some of the tainted products.
It remains to be seen to what extent the scandal will damage the reputation of French food.
Before it hit, France had enjoyed a surge in food exports to the UAE, from €215 million (Dh1.1billion) in 2011 to €270m last year.
"The gastronomy market is booming in Dubai," Mr Sporrer added.
"It took a long time to convince the authorities that the [mad cow] disease was over and that appropriate measures had been taken in France," he said. "UAE authorities were convinced of that the past year and it took a few months to process veterinary certificates for each export."
France started a few exports last autumn and the meat will be on show at the country's pavilion - Gulfood's largest - next week.
"We're trying to introduce more diversity in terms of the products coming in," said Ms Loh. "We have new countries including Brunei, Ecuador and Lithuania."
With the GCC expected to import Dh194bn of food by 2020 - twice the current level - and UAE imports alone set to reach Dh32.6bn this year, Gulfood aims to play a major role in supporting the food trade.
The event will run from 11am to 7pm from February 25 to 27 and 11am to 5pm on February 28 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.