Government ministers in Britain are claiming a complex conspiracy lies behind the widening horsemeat scandal which they say has its roots in globalisation.
As an inquiry gets underway into how horsemeat has ended up in food products supposed to be made from beef, the UK’s Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said consumer confidence in quality control and labelling had been shattered.
“I’ve got a horrible feeling that we are looking at a major international criminal conspiracy. Yes, there is a very large volume of material moving around the world the whole time and it appears that at some point a correct product has been substituted by something that is not correct.”
With frozen food products being hit hardest by the scandal, details are emerging of a complex network of slaughterhouses and middle men standing between the farm and the supermarkets.
MEP José Bové of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament went further saying: “For me effectively there is a business organising what amounts to fraud. And I would say clearly that this is a mafia at work trying to cheat consumers and of course making a lot of money at the same time.”
Meanwhile officials are now investigating whether the horsemeat found in Britain and France came from a Romanian abattoir.
Romania’s prime minister said on Monday any fraud over horsemeat had not happened in his country and he was angered by suggestions it might have been.
“From all the data we have at the moment, there is no breach of European rules committed by companies from Romania or on Romanian territory,” Victor Ponta told a news conference. “I am very angry, to be honest.”