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Horsemeat Scandal Spreads Across Europe

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A horse meat scandal that started in Britain and Ireland is now unnerving consumers around Europe, according to a VOA report. DNA tests have revealed that beef tainted with horse meat has made it into supermarkets in 13 European Union nations. Stores, schools, and hospitals are scrambling to remove some meat. And there are calls for tighter regulation of Europe’s complex food supply chain.

The scandal started in Ireland and the United Kingdom in January, but has since spread all around the EU. DNA checks on beef have found that some products, including hamburgers, contained as much as 30 percent horse meat. The list of tainted products has since widened to include frozen lasagna, tortellini, and bolognese sauce.

Europol, the EU’s police agency, is leading a Europe-wide fraud investigation. So far, British police say three men have been arrested by officers investigating the burgeoning horsemeat scandal. On Thursday, February 14, police in Wales said the arrests were on suspicion of fraud offenses that occurred at two plants that were inspected earlier this week by the U.K.‘s Food Standards Agency.

Police said two men — ages 64 and 42 — were arrested at Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, in Wales, while a 63-year-old man was arrested at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

They are accused of disguising cheap horse meat as frozen beef. The arrests come as French authorities said meat wholesaler Spanghero re-labeled and sold horse meat from Romanian suppliers. The company denies wrongdoing. By Friday, February 15, supermarkets in Germany, Denmark, Hungary, and elsewhere had begun recalling suspect products.

Britain’s food regulator said six horse carcasses that tested positive for an equine painkiller called phenylbutazone that may have entered the human food chain in France and that horsemeat tainted with the medicine may have been sold to consumers “for some time.”

In the German capital, Berlin, consumer safety experts say they are now checking all kinds of meat products.

“We haven’t found anything yet in Germany or Berlin, but the research here just started, so I can’t promise that we won’t find anything later,” said. Thomas Heilmann, from the Berlin Office of Consumer Protection

Technician Andreas Hlinak says it is too soon to know how much horse meat exists in beef sold in Germany.

“We’ve received samples, including samples from veterinary agencies, and have begun our tests. We expect to have the results ready on the samples we received this week by the middle of next week,” Hlinak said.

Hlinak says his lab employees are going into local supermarkets themselves to obtain samples.

Some food safety experts are blaming supermarkets for pushing down prices and squeezing wholesalers. Others think lax inspections are to blame. As for the supermarkets – they say they have been tricked too, and promise tougher inspections of their own going forward.

Meanwhile, the ongoing horsemeat scandal has resulted in an unprecedented boom for kosher meat suppliers as Brits seek safe alternatives to contaminated supermarket products.

The Jewish Chronicle in London has reported that the surge in demand for kosher meats is ‘the best thing’ to happen to the industry in years, according to an industry spokesperson.

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, Manchester Beth Din administrator, said people have now come to the realization that kosher food production methods have always been the ‘gold standard.’

He added that, “in many countries there’s strong evidence that non-Jewish people buy kosher meat because of the integrity and the close monitoring.”

“People always say kosher meat is expensive, but now you know why,” Elaine Mann, of north-west London’s Louis Mann and Sons butchers in Edgware, said.

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