Horse meat scandal extends across EU
The labyrinthine nature of the horse meat scandal was further emphasised over the weekend with the French authorities indicating that companies from Romania, Cyprus, France and the Netherlands were part of a supply chain that led to horse meat ending up in ready meals sold across the European Union.
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 supplied in turn by a Romanian firm.
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.
British environment secretary Owen 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.”