European Horsemeat Scandal Expands

European Horsemeat Scandal Expands

France, Sweden, and The Netherlands have now all confirmed that horsemeat is present or likely to be present in commercial products marketed as containing 100% beef, according to various media reports.


As the European horsemeat scandal grows to include more countries, government officials are turning their attention towards faults in complex, multi-national supply chains and possible foul play.

"It is unacceptable that people have been deceived in this way," said the U.K. environment secretary Owen Patterson. He said he suspects "international criminal conspiracy," according to Reuters media.

France, Sweden, and The Netherlands have now all confirmed that horsemeat is present or likely to be present in commercial products marketed as containing 100% beef, according to various media reports. Poland was initially blamed for providing horsemeat instead of beef, but Poland has denied the claims, Reuters reported.

Investigations have traced the source of horsemeat found in French food products to two Romanian slaughterhouses, according to the Romanian Minister of Agriculture Daniel Constantin, DVM. However, Romanian officials insist that there was no mislabeling of meat on their end. The Brasov-based CarmOlimp slaughterhouse has declared that it exported only horsemeat in 2012 and that there was therefore no risk of mislabeling, Constantin said in a press release over the weekend. The slaughterhouse referred to the scandal as "shameful" and indicated that the food manufacturers further down the line would have to be lacking in competency to mistake horsemeat for beef.

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta declared yesterday that he was "very angry" about the suspicions being raised against his country. "We have carried out verifications ... There were no violations of the rules or of the European standards" on the part of the two Romanian slaughterhouses, he said.

Some frozen lasagna and spaghetti bolognaise products sold in the U.K., Ireland, and France were found to contain up to 100% horsemeat, according to various sources. More than half the tested products contained at least some horsemeat.

Meanwhile, Swedish frozen food company Findus, along with Findus France and Findus U.K., have recalled thousands of products from supermarkets. Ireland has called for widespread DNA testing of consumer beef products. And in the U.K., Patterson has called for "immediate testing" of meat products in schools, hospitals, and prisons.

Findus France has traced the horsemeat back to its French subcontractor Comigel. The subcontractor had itself contracted out the preparation of its lasagna and other prepared meat products to a subsidiary in Luxembourg called Tavola, according to French news source L'Express. Tavola's meat came from the French supplier Spanghero, which received its meat frozen from a trader in Cyprus. That meat had been supplied by a trader in The Netherlands, which received its raw meat from Romanian meat producers.

Romania regularly exports meat to Italy, France, Belgium, and Spain, L'Express stated. U.K. news source The Telegraph reported that Romania exports to Poland and Cyprus, as well.

Comigel also supplies a wide variety of prepared meat products to major supermarket chains--including Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Cora, and Monoprix, as well as the Picard frozen food store chain--in France and 15 other European countries, L'Express reported. All these distributors have withdrawn certain unspecified products from their shelves.

French authorities met in Paris Monday afternoon (Feb. 11) to address the "urgent" situation, according to L'Express, which provided live online coverage of the meeting. French fraud inspectors are currently investigating Comigel and Spanghero at their production sites.

French president François Hollande insisted that the guilty parties be found quickly and that sanctions be imposed, denouncing the incompetence, profiteering, and "inadmissible behavior" related to the scandal, French media group TF1 reported. Meanwhile the national French consumer association has announced that it will be filing suit.

International ministers will be meeting Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, to determine the most effective way to handle the scandal in cooperation with the European Commission, according to Irish Agricultural Minister Simon Coveney.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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