Romanian authorities investigating horsemeat allegations

By bne IntelliNews February 11, 2013

bne -

The scandal of horsemeat found in beef products sold across Europe is growing, drawing in CEE states such as Romania and prompting allegations of widespread criminality.

As details emerge of a complex network of slaughterhouses and middlemen standing between farms and supermarkets across Europe, France and the UK have vowed to punish those found responsible for selling horsemeat purporting to be beef. Horsemeat, edible in itself, may contain a drug known as bute - a common, anti-inflammatory painkiller for sporting horses but banned for animals intended for eventual human consumption.

The head of a British parliamentary commission on the food industry has called for all meat imports from the European Union to be suspended while investigations continue. Anne McIntosh, chairwoman of the House of Commons food and rural affairs committee and a member of the governing Conservative Party, advised people to buy fresh meat locally. The UK government has rejected a temporary ban, saying it would be against EU rules.

Retailers and makers of processed meals complain of being duped by suppliers, with one Irish firm pointing the finger at Poland and another French firm at Romania.

Frozen foods group Findus said it was recalling its beef lasagne product after discovering the meat within it includes as much as 100% horsemeat. The company's French supplier, Comigel, said the questionable meat came from Romania.

Comigel, a frozen foods producer based in eastern France, told a newspaper it had bought the meat from another French company, supplied from a Romanian abattoir, Reuters reports. French officials said a Luxembourg factory had been supplied by French firm Poujol, which had bought the meat frozen from a Cypriot trader, who in turn had subcontracted the order to a Dutch trader supplied by a Romanian abattoir.

Romanian president, Traian Basescu, said his country's reputation is at stake, while authorities say they still investigating the allegations and that they will take action if any laws have been broken. However, one official also suggested Romania is doubtful it is the source.

"I believe, even though the investigation isn't finished, that everything left the country properly and officially," Constantin Savu of Romania's food safety authority was quoted as saying by state news agency Agerpres. "I find it hard to believe that such errors could exist."

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