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Stakes raised in the horsemeat scandal

Stakes raised in the horsemeat scandal
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The horsemeat scandal blame-game has heated up.

The discovery of horsemeat disguised as beef in ready-to-eat frozen meals sold across Europe has supermarket shelves being cleared and a lot of finger pointing among key players in the meat industry.

As anti-fraud agents searched two French food firms to track their meat’s source, the European Internal Market Commissioner Michael Barnier said: “As far as I know there’s no food safety problem. So we’re not talking about a health scandal, right now. But it is a scandal. And those responsible for mis-selling or fraud must face the full force of the law.”

French firm Comigel – which supplies frozen foods group Findus – said the questionable meat came from Romania and was processed in its Luxembourg plant, to be put in products sold in Britain, with Dutch and Cypriot traders also

In Romania EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos met the country’s agriculture minister Daniel Constantin as the prime minister Victor Ponta vehemently denied any horsemeat fraud there.

He complained of a tendency to push responsibility towards new EU members, the countries which possibly are not that strong in PR politics, which he said made him angry.

He insisted that all horsemeat exported from Romania was correctly identified as such and any relabeling of it as beef must have taken place further along the supply chain.

“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,” Ponta said.

The focus now is on finding out who did what in a complex network of slaughterhouses and middlemen around Europe.

Romania exports 10-12 million euros worth of horse meat a year, the Ziarul Financiar daily said, quoting agriculture ministry data, and authorities had investigated two unnamed abattoirs to check on their possible involvement.

“It is very clear that the French company did not have any direct contract with the Romanian company and … it has to be established where the fraud was committed and who is responsible for this fraud,” Ponta said.