DNA testing for all meat products
“From all the data we have at the moment, there is no breach of European rules committed by companies from Romania or on Romanian territory,” Mr Ponta told a news conference. “I am very angry, to be honest.”
An initial French investigation revealed that the horsemeat ended up in Comigel’s Luxembourg factory, supplied by a French firm, and that a Dutch and Cypriot trader had also been involved. However, the meat originally came from a Romanian abattoir.
“It is very clear that the French company did not have any direct contract with the Romanian company and ... it has to be established where the fraud was committed and who is responsible for this fraud,” Mr Ponta said.
Lasagne meals and burgers suspected of containing horse meat have been removed from supermarket shelves in Ireland, Britain, Sweden and France.
Aldi and Tesco have taken several products off their shelves in the Republic. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) warned consumers not to eat Findus beef lasagne, samples of which were found to have been contaminated with horse meat.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to publish results of a second round of tests it has ordered food producers to conduct on a wider range beef products this week.
Mr Paterson said more contaminated products could be discovered. He described the crisis as “an issue of fraud and a conspiracy against the public, I think probably by criminal elements, to substitute a cheap material for that which was marked on the label”.
Findus said it is considering legal action after an internal investigation “strongly” suggested the contamination of its products was “not accidental”. The company said it was considering pursuing a case against its suppliers over what it said was their “failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity”.
UCD associate professor of public health Dr Patrick Wall said the FSAI’s role in uncovering the presence of horse DNA in products labelled as beef should be acknowledged.
He said that while the authority had been criticised in some quarters in the early stages of the crisis it had “uncovered a huge, Europe-wide scam. If it had not been for the FSAI this could have gone unchecked for years and it has set the standard others across Europe will have to follow”.
Dr Wall said dealers stood to make vast profits if they swapped horse meat for beef. “Beef sells for around €4 a kilo while horse meat costs no more than 90 cent,” he said. “So what we are seeing here is fraud on an absolutely huge scale. And the people behind this fraud would have been making enormous sums of money.”