Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Horsemeat scandal widens to France, Sweden, Romania

  • Accusations are flying about who is responsible for the growing horsemeat scandal (Photo: European Commission)

Europe's horse meat scandal has widened to affect several member states, with Romania emerging as the possible source.

Britain first discovered the presence of horse meat in what were supposed to be beef burgers in late January, but subsequent investigations quickly found the tainted products in Ireland and now other EU countries, including France and Sweden.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The trail highlights the labyrinthine path of food from slaughterhouse to consumers' tables.

Benoit Hamon, French junior minister for consumer goods, in a statement on Sunday (10 February) said that French company Poujol had bought the meats from a Cypriot supplier who in turn had sourced the meat from a Dutch company which had been supplied by two Romanian abattoirs.

Poujol then supplied a Luxembourg factory, owned by French group Comigel. Sweden-based Findus brand then sold meat in packets of lasagne.

The French authorities have called for an emergency meeting with meat industry chiefs on Monday (11 February) . Meanwhile, six supermarket chains in France have withdrawn beef meals by Findus and Comigel from their shelves.

While there may not be any negative health effects from the horsemeat - still a popular food in some member states - companies risk suffering reputational damage.

The legal actions and accusations are already starting.

Both Findus Sweden and Findus France have said they want to take legal action.

French media is reporting that Spanghero, a Poujol subsidiary, bought the original meat. Spanghero, for its part, says it bought products labelled as beef from Romania and is also threatening to take legal action.

However, some in Romania are saying the beef industry was also implicated.

Sorin Minea, head of Romania's food federation, said that French importers must have known that they were not buying beef.

"Horsemeat has a particular taste, a particular colour and a particular quality," he said, according to Germany's Sueddeutsche newspaper.

For his part, EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos is to meet Romania's foreign minister on Monday to discuss the possible links to Romanian slaughter houses.

Ahead of the meeting, Romanian President Traian Basescu warned that his country would face loss of credibility and export restrictions "for many years" if the allegations prove to be true.

The number of countries affected by the scandal could rise - Comigel markets ready meals in 16 countries.

Experts suggest the horse meat scam will have proven highly profitable to those involved.

"Beef sells for around €4 a kilo while horse meat costs no more than 90 cent," Patrick Wall, an associate professor of public health at University College Dublin, told the Irish Times.

"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," he said.

EU reaches deal on long-running beef dispute

EU products such as France's Roquefort cheese and Italian mineral water narrowly escaped new US import duties this week following an agreement between the two sides on Wednesday over US hormone-treated beef.

EU horsemeat affair prompts DNA testing

The EU commission has urged member states to intensify DNA tests on meat products after revelations that horsemeat is being sold as beef.

EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Member states failed on Wednesday to agree to the EU's long-awaited Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive, after 13 EU ambassadors declared abstention and one, Sweden, expressed opposition (there was no formal vote), EUobserver has learned.

Latest News

  1. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  2. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  3. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  4. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  5. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms
  6. Podcast: Hyperlocal meets supranational
  7. Von der Leyen appeals for 'new EU defence mindset'
  8. EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us