26 detained in Europe over horse meat trafficking
The European Union’s agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters says 26 people have been arrested across the bloc over their alleged role in a horse meat trafficking scandal.
“Police and judicial authorities from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK were involved” in an operation which was aimed at “stopping an organized criminal network involved in trade in illegal horse meat,” read a statement issued by Eurojust on Friday.
The police forces inspected dozens of commercial and private premises belonging to the ring and confiscated over 800 horse passports, microchips, computer equipment, medication and 37,000 euros in cash, the statement added.
The agency stated that the smugglers doctored the documents in an attempt to export and sell horse meat which was unsuitable for human consumption.
This is while “according to EU food chain legislation, the provenance of all meat must be accounted for and traceable,” the statement added.
A butcher cuts a peace in a horse meat in a traditional horse butchery in Marseille, southern France, February 21, 2013. © AFP
Between 2010 and 2013, traffickers managed to illegally insert the meat of 4,700 horses into the food chain, Eurojust quoted the French authorities as saying.
“Eurojust’s support provided the opportunity for the Member States affected to discuss the most efficient common judicial strategy and response,” the statement went on to say.
Following investigations, the officials decided to examine the health of over 200 horses before allowing them to be introduced into the food supply.
In 2013, authorities collected millions of meatballs, sausages and frozen burgers from supermarkets all over Europe after probes revealed that horse meat was being intentionally passed off as beef in some meat products.
It is not yet clear whether the recent arrests are connected with the 2013 case.