Horse meat probe implicates more countries
The labyrinthine nature of the horse meat scandal was further emphasised this weekend with the French authorities indicating that companies from Romania, Cyprus, France and the Netherlands were all part of a supply chain which led to horse meat ending up in ready meals sold across the EU.
France’s junior minister for consumer goods, Benoit Hamon, said French companies had bought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, who had received it from a Dutch food company which in turn had been supplied by a Romanian firm.
Lasagne meals and burgers suspected of containing horse meat have now been pulled
from shelves in Ireland, Britain Sweden and France.
Aldi and Tesco have taken several products off their shelves in the Republic while the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) warned consumers not to eat Findus lasagnes which had been contaminated with horse meat.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK will be publishing the results of a second round of tests it has ordered food producers to conduct on a wider range beef products over the course of this week and British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said more contaminated products could be discovered.
“There may well be more bad results coming through, that’s the point of doing this random analysis,” he said. 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 has confirmed that it is considering legal action after an internal investigation “strongly suggests” that the contamination of its products “was not accidental”. In a statement the company said it was considering pursuing a case against its suppliers over what it was their “failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity.”
Dr Patrick Wall, UCD's associate professor of public health, meanwhile said the role the Food Safety Authority of Ireland 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 current crisis it had “uncovered a huger 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 told The Irish Times that 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," he said. "And the people behind this fraud would have been making enormous sums of money."