Horsemeat Scandal Is a Europe-Wide Problem

PHOTO: Workers handle meat at the Doly-Com abattoir, one of the two units checked by Romanian authorities in the horse meat scandal, in the village of Roma, northern Romania, Feb. 12, 2013. On Monday, Romanian officials scrambled to defend two plants impl
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This week the scandal over horsemeat in hamburgers and lasagne has spread beyond Britain, revealing cracks in the Continent's food supply chain. Authorities are now trying to trace the meat's circuitous path across Europe to prevent future problems.

"No artificial flavors or colors," the packaging of the frozen Spaghetti Bolognese prepared meal at British supermarket chain Tesco's promises. The additional ingredient causing such a furor right now, however, isn't even artificial. The misslabelling was even worse: Instead of the beef advertised, the product, which was sold under the chain's own Everyday Value label, contained a huge amount of horsemeat -- at least 60 percent. And all natural.

The horsemeat was first discovered in frozen hamburgers, but later in lasagne and more recently in the spaghetti product. In Britain, people are starting ask whether it is possible to eat frozen foods with a good conscience. For days now the ground horsemeat scandal has been leading the headlines as the main political issue in the country. On Tuesday, the House of Commons spent its second day in a row debating practices in European meat production that can get dicey.

And now the scandal is spreading. Traces of horsemeat have also since been discovered in other countries, including supermarkets in France and Sweden.

On Wednesday, officials at the consumer protection ministry in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia confirmed that the are investigating possible deliveries of incorrectly labelled frozen foods that may have contained horsemeat to Germany. The agency said it could only confirm whether the products actually contained horsemeat through DNA testing. So far, however, no clandestine horsemeat has been discovered in Germany, but several supermarket chains have taken the precautionary measure of removing a few food products from their shelves. British Government Goes on Defensive

Nowhere has the outrage been as great as in Great Britain. Angered members of parliament have demanded a freeze on meat imports from the Continent. Euroskeptics in the country have also taken advantage of the opportunity to attack the EU as some kind of uncontrollable behemoth. "The EU single market is an invitation to fraud," commented Bernard Jenkin, a conservative member of parliament.

The British tabloid Sun has reported that a "grim Romanian slaughterhouse built with EU cash" has been one of the sources of the horsemeat at the center of the scandal. During a debate in parliament on Tuesday, Environment Secretary Owen Peterson, whose portfolio also includes agriculture and food, lambasted what he called a "criminal action" from abroad that led to a situation in which thousands of unwitting British people had eaten burgers or lasagne containing horsemeat. Over the weekend, he had already warned of an "international conspiracy."

But it appears that British firms have been caught conducting similarly deceptive practices. Officials at the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) and police on Tuesday inspected horse slaughterhouses in Yorkshire County and a meat plant in Wales. Both companies are alleged to have used horsemeat in kebabs and burgers.

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