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The Observer claims that “sources close to the [UK] Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency [told the newspaper] it appeared that contamination of beefburgers, lasagne and other products was the result of fraud that had an “international dimension”.
Polish and Italian mafia gangs are “running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horse meat for beef during food production,” with “organised crime gangs intimidating vets and officials […] into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse,” claims the newspaper.
Since the story broke in January, when frozen beef burgers in supermarkets in Ireland were found to have contained horse DNA, beef products at the value-end of the market have been pulled from the shelves in UK and France.
Romania has also been under the microscope, with French animal rights campaigner Jose Bove, who is vice-president of the European Parliament agriculture committee, claiming that “horses have been banned from Romanian roads and millions of animals have been sent to the slaughterhouse.”
Six French supermarket chains have withdrawn frozen beef meals made by Findus and Comigel.
Despite the allegations by the Irish government of Poland being the source of horse meat that turned up in beef burger manufacture at Rangeland and Silvercrest (part of the ABF food giant) meat processing plants in Ireland, veterinary inspectors in Poland have yet to find any contamination in the food process.
“Inspections at Polish slaughterhouses have showed that only beef was sent to Ireland,” deputy chief of Poland's Veterinary Inspection, Jaroslaw Naze, has told the PAP news agency.
Samples from 14 slaughter houses thought to be connected to the horse meat scandal in Ireland were tested at the National Veterinary Institute in Pulawy, central Poland, with no horse DNA being found, Naze said.
Jozef Plata, owner of the Mipol slaughterhouse in Sądecczyzna, southern Poland, told the regional Gazetą Krakowską newspaper that though he supplies the Irish and UK market, “I can assure that the meat is clean. We do not mix these kinds of meat”.
After calls for an EU meat import ban into in the UK from the opposition Labour Party, Britain's Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said a moratorium on meat imports was not allowed under EU rules. (pg)