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02/13/2013

U.K. meat plants raided on hunt for horsemeat

Horse
A general view of the Peter Boddy slaughterhouse which was raided as part of the police inquiry into the sale of horsemeat being sold as beef on Feb. 13, in Todmorden, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Two U.K. meat processing companies were raided and closed Tuesday as British authorities try to figure out how horsemeat found it’s way into frozen “beef” food products.

Meanwhile, European Union agriculture officials gathered in Brussels Wednesday for an emergency meeting on how to deal with the growing food fraud crisis that has now spread to 16 countries. French and British supermarkets have pulled frozen “beef” products from store shelves that were found to contain horse.

The British Food Standards Agency shut down a slaughterhouse in north England and a meat-producing plant in Wales Tuesday and seized all the meat. The agency said they are investigating the “circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold when they were in fact horse.”

The scandal has brought the EU’s fragmented food-processing and food-inspection system into focus. The EU so far denies any meat bans are needed as the crisis unfolds.

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, angrily told Westminster that if the public goes to the store to buy beef they should “jolly well” get what they pay for. He vowed the full force of the law will be brought down on anyone involved in defrauding the public.

In mid-January, the scandal emerged after DNA testing in Ireland found traces of horsemeat in more than a third of burgers processed by Silvercrest Foods. Last week, Britain said the Findus company found at least 60 per cent horsemeat in 11 of 18 lasagna products that it tested and the meat in at least one of those products was entirely horse.

On Monday, British grocery chain Tesco said tests showed some samples of its frozen spaghetti meal contained more than 60 per cent horse DNA. Findus says it got its lasagna meat from French supplier Comigel, which reported that it got the meat from Romania.

The Romanian government is vigorously denying any of their companies were engaged in wrongdoing.

Some are trying to profit from the debacle. Frozen Findus lasagna is being sold on eBay for $110, The Independent newspaper reports.

With files from Reuters

Tanya Talaga is the Star’s Global Economics Reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

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