Over the course of the last few weeks, Europe has been rocked by the revelation that horsemeat has been found in various “beef” products, from lasagna to burgers. At first it seemed the scandal was contained to the U.K., Ireland and France, but now things are spiraling outward to include as many as 16 countries. Finding out who to blame is still very much up in the air, however.
In addition to the horsemeat woes at supermarkets in the U.K. and Ireland, a further seven French grocery chains have now pulled frozen beef meals bade by Findus and Comigel, reports the BBC.
It’s a complicated web of distributors and food suppliers across the European union, including Sweden and Romania and perhaps 11 additional countries, says the news agency. France’s food minister says he’s trying to make sure any and all products have been removed.
“We want to get the latest from the whole range of people involved in the food chain on what has happened and start to learn the first lessons,” he said.
A lot of fingers seem to be pointing to Romania, and the country is said to be investigating claims that one source of the trouble is an abattoir in that country. France’s agriculture minister says the horsemeat contamination isn’t just a mere slip, but part of a criminal conspiracy where suppliers knew they were using horsemeat but could sell it for more money as beef.
“There are people who are out there to defraud, who are looking to cheat,” he told RTL radio (via the Associated Press).
French officials says a company there bought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, who had gotten it from a Dutch food trader that had purchased the meat from two Romanian slaughterhouses. Confusing, yes. The French company then took that meat to a Luxembourg factory owned by Comigel, and from there it was sold under the Swedish brand name Findus.
Findus France isn’t happy about this and is placing the blame squarely on Romanian shoulders. The director of the company says it’s going to file a legal complaint.
“We thought we had certified French beef in our products. But in reality, we were supplied with Romanian horsemeat. We have been deceived,” he said.
Meanwhile Romanian officials aren’t happy to be in the spotlight. The country’s president is warning butchers there that the country could lose face and get hit with export restrictions for years to come if it turns out they started this whole thing in the first place.
Oh, what a tangled web the food industry can weave.