The investigation uncovers a criminal horsemeat network at EU level –

A joint investigation by the Spanish Civil Guard and the EU’s law enforcement agency (EUROPOL) has uncovered an extensive criminal network selling potentially dangerous horsemeat on Spanish, Belgian, German and Italian markets.

Operation Yucatán, which targeted the illegal sale of unfit horsemeat, seized more than half a ton of untraceable meat.according to a Europol statement.

The scheme is believed to have illegally generated a total of €1.5m consumer health is at considerable risk, as this lack of oversight poses a “significant risk for the development of zoonotic diseases transmissible to humans,” according to the EU agency.

Spanish national authorities arrested 35 people participating in the fraud scheme and a further six arrests were made by the Belgian Federal Police. The investigation also identified six companies linked to the network.

Current EU food legislation obliges businesses to comply with EU requirements at all stages of production and distribution.

This includes ensuring that imported food is equivalent to EU food safety rules and traceability requirements and counting with food business operators who ensure satisfactory compliance with food law at all stages.

In practice, the scheme involved purchasing unwanted horses in Spain, either cheaply or for free, to exploit before selling the meat on the European market.

“The suspects involved in the criminal network had different functions: from those who slaughtered the animals without the necessary controls to the people who handled the transport, the veterinarians who provided false documents and the slaughterhouses, who sold the meat unfit for consumption.” explained the statement.

In 2013, another scandal rocked Europe after undeclared or misdeclared traces of horse DNA were found in frozen beef burgers sold in Irish and British supermarkets.

MEPs want tougher penalties for food fraud after the horsemeat scandal

A year after the horsemeat scandal erupted across Europe, the European Parliament on Tuesday called for more inspections of food production chains and tougher penalties for companies committing food fraud.
The controversy began last year when DNA tests revealed that some products sold across Europe were labeled as beef but actually contained up to 100% horse meat.

Citing the flaws of the meat industry

Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at European consumer organization BEUC said she was “concerned that this illegal sale of horsemeat unfit for human consumption has been going on for several years”, adding that it risks exposing consumers to ” risks of food poisoning and animal to shocking abuses”.

She pointed out that “mandatory labeling of the country of origin of horsemeat could ensure better traceability […] and greater due diligence on the part of food businesses selling such meat.”

But proper labeling isn’t enough, according to Perrin.

“EU governments must double food checks and dedicate sufficient funds to checks to ensure that consumers’ food is safe and what it says it is,” she added.

Meanwhile, Yolanda Morales, spokeswoman for the Spanish Party for Animals (PACMA), said this investigation raises the deeper question of whether meat consumption is ever “fair” to animals.

“These animals were mistreated before going to the slaughterhouse, but we don’t even know the condition of the animals in the legal farms,” ​​she told EURACTIV.

in total, 80 horses were rescued in the raid by Spanish law enforcement who had various untreated diseases due to lack of veterinary control.

According to the statement, these animals endured “poor conditions in cattle facilities, lack of food and water, as well as constant stress during transport.”

New EU food bill is weak on traceability, campaigners warn

Insecticides in eggs, salmonella in baby milk – how can major food scandals continue despite strict EU rules? The EU is currently revising its food law, but for consumer campaigners the proposals do not go far enough to ensure full traceability. EURACTIV Germany reports.

[Edited by Natasha Foote/Nathalie Weatherald]

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