Last month, reports surfaced that traces of horse meat and pork made their way to products identified as 100 percent beef in supermarkets across Great Britain, France, and Sweden. It turns out that some of that meat may actually be donkey meat originating from Romania, according to a Feb. 10 report by British paper The Independent.
On Sunday, a French politician said that horse meat was provided by a Romanian supplier after the country passed a law six years ago which banned horse-carts as a means of transportation in roads. However, the Eastern European country also passed a similar law banning carts drawn by donkeys, which is raising speculation by food experts and politicians that supermarkets and butcher shops across the continent are riddled with donkey meat.
"Horses have been banned from Romanian roads and millions of animals have been sent to the slaughterhouse," said Jose Bove, vice-president of the European Parliament agriculture committee.
On Sunday, France's consumer minister, Benoît Hamon, said that he would take legal action if evidence emerged that local companies were aware of the fraud that may result in billions of dollars in losses for the cattle industry due to significantly lower demand from consumers.
When the scandal erupted in January, Europe's largest food chains exercised damage control and said that the problem was confined only to Britain. However, evidence of horse and donkey meat as well as pork is growing in countries such as France and Sweden, and appears to signal a problem across the European Union.
Part of the problem stems from a Romanian supplier which appears to have processed the banned horses and donkeys. Horse meat is often injected with veterinarian drugs for horse racing that makes it more dangerous for human consumption.
Some samples of the meat tested at supermarkets, which were supposed to contain 100 percent beef, have shown between 30 to 100 percent of the material as horse (or donkey) meat. Last week, lasagna products were pulled from shelves due to the discovery of fraudulent meat. Some had pork mixed in, which violates the traditional diet of Jews and Muslims.
Earlier this month, fast food giant Burger King admitted that its restaurants in England offered beef patties mixed with horse meat. Ensuing litigation throughout the continent could cost the erring companies tens of millions of dollars. Last month, McDonald's had to pay $700,000 to a Muslim group in the United States for selling them meat patties that did not conform to Islam's Halal dietary requirements.
Food safety authorities believe that the donkey meat came from abattoirs who created complex shipment points in Romania, Cyprus, and Holland. The donkey meat were then moved to a plant in the south of France. Some frozen meals were sold in supermarkets in 16 countries.
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