UK & World News
Horsemeat Scandal: Romania Angered By Blame
Meat producers in Romania say they are being treated "like the black sheep of the family" in the growing international row over horsemeat in supermarket food.
Sorin Minea, head of Romalimenta, the Romanian food industry federation, told Sky News that the accusations are tinged with racism: "Look at the thief in the square, the gypsy. He is to blame."
The French supplier to Comigel, the ready-meal giant which made the Findus and Aldi dishes found to contain up to 100% horsemeat, appeared to point the finger at two Romanian slaughterhouses.
A preliminary investigation by the Romanian government claims that the paperwork from the abattoirs was in order and that the livestock entering the facilities were accurately documented.
It also suggested that the meat which emerged from the slaughterhouses was properly labelled, and so therefore the substitution happened elsewhere in the food production chain.
The Romanian prime minister said he was "very angry" over "unproven" allegations that facilities in the country were responsible for horsemeat being used instead of beef.
"I want to help catch and punish the guilty ones ... we are victims of this fraud," he said.
Victor Ponta told a news conference: "We checked all the production facilities, and it's now very clear that no fraud has been committed by Romanian companies, or on the Romanian territory."
And the country's ambassador to the UK, Dr Ion Jinga, told Sky News that they were not to blame, saying Romanians love horses as much as people in Britain do.
"It is totally unacceptable to manipulate public opinion using false data without prior check," he insisted.
"It is outrageous for British newspapers to say wild horses have been used as meat.
"In reality all horses are micro-chipped and under surveillance, all wild horse are protected.
"I have a message: we love horses as much as Britons do."
It is obvious that that the accusations have stung food producers in Romania.
Sky News was denied permission to film inside abattoirs and meat processing companies. In each case managers said they did not want to be associated with the scandal.
When Sky News attempted to film in an open air market where butchers ply their trade, security guards prevented it.
Mr Minea echoed a claim by British government ministers that organised crime might be behind a systematic attempt to substitute prime beef with cheaper, inferior meat.
In which case, he said, this may be the tip of a "very large iceberg," and the Italian mafia may be involved.
He told Sky News more regulation from Brussels might not be the answer, but member states need to monitor the situation more closely and arrest the organisers.
As the scandal enters its fourth week, UK supermarket giant Tesco has revealed one of its products has tested positive to significant levels of horse DNA.