Horsemeat Legal Action Starts In Europe
Britain is to hold crisis talks with other countries over the horsemeat scandal today as the first court cases related to the scare begin.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told Sky News he would be talking to ministers in Europe about how to tackle the "sickening" contamination.
An unprecedented product screening has already been launched in the UK after some products on sale were found to be 100% horsemeat.
Romania has now angrily denied that his country was to blame, insisting meat at two of its abattoirs had not been falsely labelled.
Amid concerns about the complicated supply chain, an experienced haulage worker has told Sky News that meat is being transported in poor hygiene conditions.
Mr Paterson has sought to play down fears that the scandal could pose a health risk, but some believe its full scale has yet to emerge.
"I understand court cases will begin in certain continental countries today between processors and suppliers and I very much hope that this is resolved rapidly," he said.
"I will be talking to ministerial counterparts in Europe today because it is absolutely intolerable that a fraud is being carried out on the public."
The Cabinet minister, who will update MPs later, admitted the current supply system was flawed and that random testing and spot checks were being discussed.
However, he has already admitted the Government is powerless to impose a ban on meat imports unless the contaminated beef is found to be a danger to people's health.
"Arbitrary measures like that are not actually going to help. Firstly we are bound by the rules of the European market," he told Sky News.
"Should this move from an issue of labelling and fraud and there is evidence of material which represents a serious threat to human health, I won't hesitate to take action."
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said there is no evidence to suggest there is any danger.
But tests are being carried out for phenylbutazone - known as "bute" - because animals treated with the drug are not allowed to enter the food chain.
Findus, which had to recall its beef lasagnes made by French food supplier Comigel after they were found to be up to 100% horsemeat, has said it will file a legal complaint in France.
Its Nordic branch says it plans to sue Comigel - which provides products to companies in 16 countries - and its suppliers.
"This is a breach of contract and fraud," said the head of Findus Nordic, Jari Latvanen. "Such behaviour on the part of a supplier is unacceptable."
Comigel head Erick Lehagre told reporters the company had been fooled by its suppliers and vowed to seek compensation.
"We were victims and it's now clear that the problem was not with Findus nor with Comigel," he said. "This represents a very heavy loss for us and we will seek compensation."
The Findus meals were assembled by Comigel using meat provided by Spanghero, a meat-processing company also based in France.
French anti-fraud agents searched the premises of Comigel and Spanghero on Monday. Both firms deny any wrongdoing.
Spanghero said in a statement on its website that it had bought products labelled as beef from Romania and has also threatened to sue.
But Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said Spanghero did not have a "direct contract" with Romanian firms.
He insisted investigations show "no violation of European rules and standards" by the two abattoirs pinpointed, adding: "Romania cannot accept to be the usual suspect."
The scandal has spread across Europe as details of the elaborate supply chain in the meat industry emerged.
Products have been removed from shops in Britain, France and Sweden as producers and distributors insisted they had been deceived about their contents.
French consumer safety authorities have said companies from Romania, Cyprus and the Netherlands as well as its own firms were involved.
France's Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon warned it "will not hesitate" to to take legal action if there is evidence companies had knowingly duped consumers.
Mr Hamon said an initial investigation by French safety authorities had found the French company Poujol bought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader.
That trader had bought it from a Dutch food supplier, who in turn bought it from two Romanian slaughterhouses, he claimed.
Poujol then supplied a factory in Luxembourg, owned by Comigel - which then supplied Findus.
what do you think?
Patterson's statement is just so indicative of the government's true attitude on the 'EU'. He's saying the UK must continue to import this rubbish because of the rules of 'the single market'. The people of this country come second when it comes down to it, it's all 'yes sir no sir' to Brussels. Please people of Eastleigh, give these traitors a damned good kicking at the by-election.
Mr Paterson said no case for criminal action has been discovered in the UK yet but the FSA said it was "working closely" with police in case that changes. Hang on a second, it says 'BEEF LASAGNE' and no doubt the list of ingredients on the back says it contains 'BEEF'. BEEF is a meat product from slaughtered COWS; HORSEMEAT, as the name indicates, is from slaughtered HORSES. At the very least, FINDUS are guilty of FRAUD, and if FINDUS genuinely did not know then their suppliers also are guilty of FRAUD. SOMEONE SOMEWHERE IS GUILTY OF A CRIMINAL ACT!!!!!
Lee Wright Addy
At the height of the BSE scare - ALL of Europe went against us. Now the boot is on the other shoe - perhaps its only fair that we should be allowed to reciprocate.
These firms who provided this meat should be prosecuted for fraud and fined.and the money distributed to the innocent firms that have been affected by this scandel.the laws are currently inadequate and the and the tracerbility of the meat is spurious.
EU Rules are a one way street as far as Brussels is concerned, they stopped our lamb in the eighties and our beef in the nineties, not to mention the eggs some years before. I know it's a bit more expensive but even just for a while, we should only buy beef, or any other meat for that matter, that has the British Farm Assured label on it.
James R McCulloch
Not long ago, we had Foot and Mouth in our herds. Europe was quick to ban imports. Now we want to ban imports due to the horsemeat and we can't. I say to Europe and Brussels, you may need us but we certainly don't need YOU!
Windows Live User
Looks like there is going to be lots around for you then.
If they had been importing their horsemeat by the pound instead of the kilo they would have been dragged through the full rigours of the law instantly.
I've never knowingly had horsemeat, unknowingly I've probably had quite a lot, so the argument isn't an ethical one about consuming a horse but just on honest packaging as well as the quality of that meat, ie not being pumped full of drugs. The thing that does annoy me is the EU's control over what we can and can't import as well as the fact that we should support our own farmers and not something sourced from Romania.
Windows Live User
It does show that the EU Rules are as useless as the highly paid fools who make them. You are correct - Buy British -
The EU does not 'control' what the UK can and cannot import. Don't be so ignorant. The market controls what we want to import - and unlike the Italians, French, Germans et al, the British are the biggest consumers of processed rubbish in the world. Hence the obesity problem in the UK. The EU does not 'tell' you to buy rubbish, cheap burgers, chips and pies. If you want to buy quality food spend some money. It's that simple.
The Govt is powerless to impose a ban on meat imports unless the contaminated meat is found to be a danger to people's health. I seem to remember at the height of the BSE scare the French imposed a ban on UK beef imports unilaterally
He cannot ban meat imports because his European masters won't let him. After BSE I thought that all beef products could be traced back to the farm and even the cow that they came from. I suspect that the food processors and the supermarkets are at least complicit in this fraud and possibly actively involved.
Someone somewhere has profitted from this - INTENTIONALLY. Selling a lesser product at a higher price. Im not surprised its come from eastern europe. If the man off the street had done this for example a market trader,hed be shut down and banned. A perfect example why we should source from within the isles of good old blighty. At least we know a cow from a horse! Ie the one without frankie detorrie sitting on its back!
This can't be blamed on the EU - if anything the EU will work to prevent this misrepresentation happening again. This effect many of our fellow Europeans. The reason the food is contaminated is because the huge supermarkets completely control our food supply (In a way that the EU does not, for example) the supermarkets demand that their suppliers produce food at prices dictated to by the supermarket. The prices are artificially low so suppliers 'cut corners' to meet the 'per head' cost. This is exactly what happened with BSE. In order to save cost ? and thus meet the price demands of the omnipotent supermarkets ? beef farmers fed their stock contaminated (but cheap) fodder. The FSA came into being as a result of the BSE situation. After the supermarkets and the producers lobbied the Govt against the FSA, the FSA had its budget cut and its ability to investigate was hampered. The food industry told the government it would regulate itself. So blaming the EU is ridiculous and completely misses the point. That being that cheap food is, by definition, produced cheaply.
There is no such thing as cheap food. What we save in the supermarket weloose by supporting the Common Agricultural Policy
I don't understand your point. The profits the supermarkets make go to the supermarkets I believe. (And I think you mean 'lose' rather than 'loose')
Before blaming the EU (which is very easy to do) remember that the supermarkets are packaging and labelling the food and pricing and sourcing the food and selling the food. Not the EU. The supermarkets are responsible for what they are selling you - not the EU. The supermarkets are responsible for checking the contents of what they sell - not the EU. Now if you want to make the EU responsible for checking all food content then expect to pay higher prices - as food will be purer - and stop the incessant, petty complaining.
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Your average beef burger is a big mash-up of edible scraps and parts from different cows from different plants / abbatoirs, often from different parts of the UK (even countries), with fat and additives ground in. This is cheap food and its prevelance is more to do with US cultural hegemony rather than the EU. Public taste is for cheap, easily warmed up processed food. If you pay 1.29 for a meal don't expect it to be premium and then don't balme the EU and Europeans. We are all victims of the supermarket's monopoly of our supply and production.
Field Pete: 'The thing that does annoy me is the EU's control over what we can and can't import ' What a totally ignorant comment. Does the EU tell the UK to buy BMWs, Zanuzzi, Pinot Grigo, Edam, Prada? Or indeed does the EU control the UK's export of Scotch, Land Rovers, Stilton . . . . ? Of course not. It's a free market - that's the whole point.
Mary, we can't ban the importation of these products because of the EU. Now grow up a bit and show some respect, learn your facts before championing the EU.