Not the Sopranos: Police in Europe break up network selling illegal horse meat

Raphael Minder of The New York Times reports police in Europe have dismantled a criminal network that was selling horse meat across the Continent that was “not suitable for consumption,” arresting 66 people as part of a four-year investigation prompted by the discovery in Ireland of horse meat in burgers sold as beef.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said on Sunday that all but one of the arrests had been made in Spain. But the Spanish police said in a separate statement that their part of the investigation had accounted for “a small portion of a network stretching across the whole of Europe, under the control of a Dutch citizen.”

The Dutch citizen, who has not been publicly identified and was taken into custody in April in Belgium, was described in a Europol statement as the leader of a criminal gang that had acquired horses on the Iberian Peninsula that were judged to be “in bad shape, too old or simply labeled as ‘not suitable for consumption.’ ”

The animals’ meat was processed and sent to Belgium, one of the European Union’s biggest exporters of horse meat, and the criminal organization modified the animals’ microchips and documentation to facilitate the fraudulent export, the statement said.

The Pan-European investigation began after a scandal over horse meat in burgers in Ireland in 2013, and it was widened to other European countries as dishes like frozen lasagna labeled as containing beef were found to have horse meat.

In addition to the arrests, the Spanish police said on Sunday that they had seized property and luxury cars, and that they had frozen bank accounts. The police in Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland also carried out interventions, according to Europol, although the statement did not provide details.

Cleveland fan eats horse poop during NBA championship parade

The Cleveland Cavaliers and 1.3 million of their fans celebrated the franchise’s first National Basketball Association championship on Wednesday as their victory parade and rally took over the downtown area.

In video clip below, courtesy of Barstool Sports, one fan in attendance decided to make a spectacle of himself by pushing other parade goers out of the way in order to rush over to what appears to be a fresh batch of horse manure and proceeding to eat it in front of the crowd around him.

What the hell Cleveland?


Buffett from hell: 31 sickened with Staph at a horsey event in Luxembourg

In June 2014, a staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak occurred at an international equine sports event in Luxembourg requiring the hospitalization of 31 persons.

horseWe conducted a microbiological investigation of patients and buffet items, a case–control study and a carriage study of catering staff. Isolates of Staphylococcus aureus from patients, food and catering staff were characterized and compared using traditional typing methods and whole genome sequencing.

Identical strains (sequence type ST8, spa-type t024, MLVA-type 4698, enterotoxin A FRI100) were isolated in 10 patients, shiitake mushrooms, cured ham, and in three members of staff. The case–control study strongly suggested pasta salad with pesto as the vehicle of infection (p<0.001), but this food item could not be tested, because there were no leftovers. Additional enterotoxigenic strains genetically unrelated to the outbreak strain were found in four members of staff. Non-enterotoxigenic strains with livestock-associated sequence type ST398 were isolated from three food items and two members of staff.

The main cause of the outbreak is likely to have been not maintaining the cold chain after food preparation. Whole genome sequencing resulted in phylogenetic clustering which concurred with traditional typing while simultaneously characterizing virulence and resistance traits.

 Investigation of a Staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak combining case control, traditional typing, and whole genome sequencing methods

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 45, November 2015

  1. Mossong, F. Decruyenaere, G. Moris, C. Ragimbeau, C.M. Olinger, S. Johler, M. Perrin, P. Hau, P. Weicherding

Horsemeat scandal: probe failure by authorities dates back to 1998

British authorities were, according to The Guardian, aware that tonnes of condemned horsemeat was being imported for use by suspected fraudsters as long ago as 1998 but failed to investigate the criminal networks involved fully for lack of resources.

Over 15 years ago, environmental health officers from Rotherham council investigating a conspiracy in which hundreds of tonnes of unfit poultry meat was recycled in to the human food chain, discovered regular shipments of around 20 tonnes each of frozen “ponymeat” from China had been arriving at UK ports for months.

The horsemeat consignments had been condemned for the human food chain by the Chinese authorities but could have been used legally to make petfood, according to a source involved with enforcement. However a paper trail showed the horsemeat going in to cold stores licenced for the human food chain rather than for petfood and then disappearing in a separate suspected fraud, the source said.

A spokesperson for Rotherham council confirmed that at the time it had investigated “significant concerns relating to a wide range of food stuffs, including poultry, ‘ponymeat’, red meats, fish and frozen vegetables”. Convictions were secured over the poultry, but no one was charged in the other suspected cases.

The chain of brokers and cold stores through which the horsemeat was passing overlapped with a criminal chain in which condemned poultry meat that was green with slime and covered with faeces was being cleaned up with chemicals, repacked and relabelled with faked official health marks and then moved in to the human food chain, the source said. The fraudulently mislabelled chicken and turkey was sold across the UK to food manufacturers, schools and retailers including the discount supermarkets Netto and Kwik Save.

FSA and police investigations into the 2013 horsemeat scandal have uncovered a similar pattern, in which imported horsemeat passing through a system of brokers and cold stores appears to have been repacked and relabelled with faked official health marks as beef, the Guardian has been told, although they have not proved where exactly the fraud of mislabelling took place.

Food fraud: If verification is now standard, why isn’t it marketed at retail so consumers know?

Almost a year later, can we be confident that the beef burger is a horse-free foodstuff, asks Alison Healy in The Irish Times.

Every week seems to bring new scares: if it’s not fox masquerading as donkey meat in China, it’s the discovery of donkey, water buffalo and goat in sausages and burgers in o-HORSE-MEAT-COSTUME-570South Africa.

The chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Alan Reilly, believes burgers and processed-meat products have never been safer, because of the range of tests and regulations that have been introduced in response to the scandal.

“The industry will never be caught on the hop again, like it was with horse meat,” he says. Laboratory certification has become standard for anyone selling or buying meat, and testing the authenticity of meat products is the industry norm now. “So from a consumer perspective, that’s a hugely positive step.”

Both ABP and Tesco Ireland point to a range of tests and standards they have introduced to ensure that a meat-contamination scandal cannot happen again. ABP says it believes it has the most comprehensive testing regime of any European meat processor, including DNA testing of cattle and a strict supplier-approval process.

Tesco Ireland says it now has a world-class traceability and DNA-testing system across its food products. “The initial focus of our testing programme was on products containing beef, but things have evolved during the course of the year to include pork, lamb, chicken, fish and processed meats,” a spokesman says.

Tesco is also looking at ways of using tests to help identify the likely origin of some products. “For example, it can be very difficult to identify the provenance of products such horse-hamburgeras olive oil, rice or coffee by sight, smell and taste alone. Using our authenticity testing, which looks closely at the chemical make-up of a product, we can verify that what is in the pack is exactly what it says on the label.”

That’s all nice, but consumers have heard all this before, only to be eventually disappointed.. Over time, or bad economics, or both, someone will cut corners. The best producers should be marketing the authenticity of their products and make the testing to validate those claims available for public review.

After horse meat scandal, food producers test for kangaroo and dog

The horse meat crisis has led the world’s largest food manufacturer Nestle to test for the presence of meat such as kangaroo and dog, according to the head of food safety at the firm’s research centre Dr horse.meat.09John O’Brien.

As reported in the Irish Times, Dr O’Brien, a former head of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, people working in food safety had now become molecular detectives. “Not only are we concerned with horse, we are also keeping an eye on kangaroo, dogs, goats and a few other species and asking questions. Could any of these find their way into the food chain? So we have probes for all of those.”

Woman fined for letting horse poop inside UK McDonald’s

A woman and her horse go to a McDonalds drive-thru.

Staff won’t fill her order.

horse-poo-picSo the woman and her horse go into the McDonalds.

The horse says, “order for me, I’ve got to take a dump.”

The horse didn’t make it to the bathroom.

Maybe time for Depends.

Shit happens.

But maybe this isn’t so unusual, since it is Manchester. Watch the horse in a pub celebrating the royal baby birth the other night via The Daily Show (which you can see if you live in North America).

A horse is a horse of course, except when it isn’t

The horse meat scandal in Europe keeps getting bigger but, according to Elizabeth Weise of USA Today, U.S. officials say it’s unlikely there’s any horse meat hidden in U.S. meat products.

Or, like products from Iceland’s high-end natural food company Gaedakokkar, horse.laughthere’s no meat at all in its meat pies.

Genetic tests have found ground horse meat in beef in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. On Friday Taco Bell outlets in Britain found traces of the meat in what was supposed to be 100% beef. The company has removed all beef products from its menu in the United Kingdom.

There is no link between Taco Bell suppliers in Europe and the United States, the company said.

Canada is the largest exporter of horsemeat to Europe, according to the Humane Society of Canada.

Two companies are currently trying to open horse slaughter plants in the United States, on in Missouri and one in New Mexico. USDA is reviewing their applications.

It’s “doubtful” any dangerous pathogens were in the horse meat Europeans have inadvertently eaten, said Doug Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

“It has been found in meals and products that are highly processed—the bad bugs would be cooked away.” It’s the public’s trust that’s been broken “and since almost all food safety at retail is faith-based, the faith has been violated.”


Audits inspections never enough; arrests in horse fraud

As UK police made arrests at the two food plants raided jointly with the Food Standards Agency on Tues., the uber-witty Economist says “big retailers and producers have brands to protect, so they are vigilant.”


An audit by Tesco of its suppliers “is one of the most feared and respected things in the industry,” says Michael Walker, a food-safety consultant. “How come it didn’t pick this up?”

Because audits and inspections are never enough.

Fail: Horse meat in lasagna may be donkey

As questions become increasingly shocking in the EU horsegate scandal – do retailers have any idea what they are selling, was it the mob, how does donkey taste – Rob Mancini writes about being Italian and lasagna.

There are two prerequisites required for an Italian: being able to adequately cook and to kick ass in soccer. So when I come across a story where horse horse.laughmeat is used in lasagna, this irks me. FSAI reports

Findus’ own checks revealed that some of its frozen lasagnes contain more than 60% horse meat.  The products have been withdrawn from sale from Tesco stores in Ireland, but may also be on sale in independent retail shops. Tests are currently underway to determine if the horse meat contains the veterinary medicine, phenylbutazone, commonly known as “bute”.

Nature Of Danger:

Phenylbutazone is not permitted in the food chain as it can pose a risk to health. In rare cases it can cause a serious blood disorder.  However, if horse meat that is contaminated with bute is consumed, the risk of damage to human health is considered to be low.

A proper lasagna must have a delicate balance of veal and pork gently caressed in a slew of ricotta cheese peppered with a touch of fresh nutmeg. I know what I’m eating tonight. Awesome recipe here: