BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union on Friday agreed the immediate launch of tests for horse DNA in meat products as part of a plan to battle food fraud following the horsemeat scandal spreading across Europe. A European Commission plan to carry out DNA tests on beef products and check in abattoirs for the presence of an equine drug potentially harmful to humans was endorsed at an extraordinary meeting of the EU's Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health. EU officials and statements said the testing of "foods destined for the final consumer and marketed as containing beef" could start immediately in member states, with the European Commission co-funding tests at a rate of 75 percent for the first month.

 The DNA controls, "mainly at the retail level", will include 2,250 samples across the EU, ranging from 10 to 150 tests per member state. The phenylbutazone test will require one sample for every 50 tonnes of horsemeat, with each of the bloc's 27 states required to carry out a minimum of five tests. EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, who proposed the plan at crisis talks on Wednesday, said he welcomed the swift approval by EU member states of the plan. "I call on them to keep up the pressure in their efforts to identify a clear picture and a sequence of events," he said in a statement.