Food fraud is new mob; Illegal horsemeat seized from slaughterhouses in Ireland

Horsemeat has been seized in raids on slaughterhouses in Ireland as part of a huge international operation targeting food fraud.

Live animals and more than 17t of horsemeat were seized from several slaughterhouses in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Inspections of the slaughterhouses found that about 20% of the foreign passports used for these horses showed signs of forgery.

 Competition horses with forged documents were also sent to slaughterhouses.

Europol supported national authorities in the clampdown on the “dangerous criminal trend” of illegal horsemeat, which was led by Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The raids were part of Opson 2020, a six-month operation by Europol and Interpol which targeted trafficking of counterfeit and substandard food and drink.

Greed: Two men imprisoned from the horsemeat scandal

This story is a good segue to promote my talk on food fraud at Bug Day on October 17th, 2017 in Winnipeg Manitoba. Bug Day is hosted by Health Sciences Centre in collaboration with the University of Manitoba’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Medicine Program.
Bug Day is Manitoba’s largest healthcare education event and it is held every year during National Infection Prevention & Control Week. 

Lucy Pasha-Robinson of the Independent writes:
Andronicos Sideras, 55, and Ulrik Nielsen, 58, were jailed at Inner London Crown Court for four years and six months and three years and six months respectively.The pair were found guilty of a conspiracy to sell 30 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, most of which entered the food chain. Sideras, one of the owners of meat manufacturer Dinos & Sons, mixed the products together before selling the meat to other firms. Nielsen, the Danish owner of FlexiFoods, bought horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and had it delivered to Dinos in Tottenham, north London.Nielsen’s “right-hand man”, Alex Beech, 44, arranged for the shipments to be transferred and handled the accounting.

Some of the horses acquired for meat were racehorses injected with who knows what posing a myriad of possible chemical food safety concerns to consumers.

The majority of the meat, including some from farm horses not sold for slaughter, made it into the food chain and, while the face value of the fraud was £177,869, police said the true cost had probably run into millions of pounds.
Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said the scandal had led to a “crisis of confidence” in the food supply chain which hit sales and there were a “very, very large number of victims” in this case.

The mob and horsemeat in Europe

A coordination centre run by Eurojust and led by the French Desk succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade in illegal horsemeat.

soprano.horsePolice and judicial authorities from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK were involved in the common action day, including, among others, 100 officers of the Gendarmerie Nationale of France, three of whom were present in Belgium, 100 officers from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, and Belgian officers, some of whom were present in France, Luxembourg and Germany.

French authorities estimate that between 2010 and 2013, 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered and introduced into the legal food chain. Four hundred horse passports with anomalies were detected in France alone. Due to falsification, suppression and/or modification of official health documentation by the group, the horsemeat, deemed unfit for human consumption, was able to fraudulently enter the European food chain. According to EU food chain legislation, the provenance of all meat must be accounted for and traceable.

Investigations into the main suspect, a Belgian national operating from Belgium, began in Belgium in November 2012, led by an Investigating Judge from the Tribunal de Première Instance of the Province of Luxembourg (Division Arlon), Belgium. France started their investigation in July 2013, led by an Investigating Judge from the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Marseille (Pôle Santé Publique).

A joint investigation team (JIT) was formed between France and Belgium in May 2014, with funding for the JIT provided by Eurojust. Latest developments in the case led to the JIT being extended towards the UK this month.

Key figures at the time of issuance of this press release

  • 26 arrests made;
  • EUR 37,000 in cash seized;
  • More than 200 horses will be examined by veterinary services;
  • Dozens of searches of commercial and private premises were carried out; and
  • More than 800 horse passports were seized, as well as medication, dozens of microchips and computer equipment.

UK row as horsemeat file shelved

The official report into the causes of the horsemeat scandal has been shelved until at least the autumn, prompting criticism that the government is not doing enough on food safety.

horse-hamburgerThe inquiry by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen’s University Belfast, was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 16 months ago and was to have been completed by the spring. It is expected to highlight the impact of spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry.

But sources have told the Guardian that its publication has been blocked amid government concerns that the public would be frightened by the idea that criminals were still able to interfere with their food.

Elliott said in December that the food sector had become a “soft touch” for criminals who knew there was little risk of detection or serious penalty and that the response of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was insufficiently robust. He has also called for a new police force to combat food crime, saying the risks were so great that a dedicated unit staffed by senior police detectives was needed.

It ain’t just horsemeat: UK has serious mainstream food crime

As Europe wakes up to food fraud in the form of horsemeat, French folks learned today that meat from horses used in laboratory procedures was sold as fit for human consumption and landed on French dinner table.

Officers from France’s National Gendarmerie, accompanied by food safety and veterinary investigators, carried out raids in 11 regions in sopranos_satrialessouthern France before dawn, arresting 21 people, according to a statement.

An official, speaking on condition of anonymity because details had not yet been released, said the animals had been used in laboratories — including that of drugmaker Sanofi-Pasteur — and then, instead of being destroyed, ended up in the food chain.

Previously, Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, issued a report on the horsemeat scandal of earlier this year, and concluded it wasn’t just food fraud, but serious food crime in the mainstream industry.

According to the Guardian, while the report is careful not to join all the dots, and Elliott himself stresses that the scale of hidden illegal activity in our food supply is almost by definition impossible to calculate, it leaves little doubt that the UK has a very serious problem.

Some of the most devastating information comes in a series of panels and oblique references to what he believes is really happening.

We are told of the case of a cold store where the authorities uncovered evidence of extensive criminal planning. The store’s primary business horse.laugh_-250x300was to re-label animal byproducts classed as eligible only for pet food as fit for human consumption, using forged veterinary health marks.

The people involved even advertised to the industry that they could re-label out-of-date meat as part of a “government-approved service”.

But there was, and remains no, capacity “for the major criminal investigation the evidence, and the criminal profits, justified”, Elliott reports.

Good on ya, Alan: horsemeat in food chain ‘for three years’

Horsemeat in the food chain could have been passed off as beef for three years, the country’s food safety watchdog has said.

Alan Reilly of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said he suspects the rogue product may have been in beef for years.

The first definitive test showing horsemeat contamination only came in April last year, but Prof Reilly insisted the problem was right under the noses of horse.meat.09Europe’s food safety watchdogs.

Prof Reilly said the authority had been using DNA testing on meat since 2005, but decided seven years later to see if people were “cheating” by passing off horsemeat for more expensive cuts.

He admitted he had “lost some sleep” after one burger was found to contain 29% horsemeat.

The FSAI boss revealed the decision to go public on the fraud was very difficult.

He added: “The Irish media attacked us for going public, but what we uncovered was a massive international fraud.”

Prof Reilly said the scandal has removed trust from buyers but he cannot see the situation happening again.

He added: “The industry norm now is to buy nothing on trust and to test it. So I couldn’t see it happening again.”

The FSAI tested several blocks of frozen meat used for burgers.

Prof Reilly said in one case a block labelled as Polish beef trim contained “horsemeat with an Irish stamp and a micro-chip for a Polish horse.”

Wholesale Co linked to horsemeat bankrupt; bid to halt mass meat recall fails

A Dutch court has rejected a meat wholesaler’s bid to quash an order recalling 50,000 tonnes of beef potentially contaminated with horsemeat.

“The court rejects the request for a preliminary injunction,” on Dutch food authority NVWA’s recall of meat handled by Willy Selten, judge Reinier van Zutphen said at the commercial court in The Hague on Thursday.

Businessman Selten, allegedly a key player in Europe’s horsemeat scandal, had sought to overturn the NVWA’s order to recall all meat sold by the horse.meat.09company over the past two years.

The watchdog recalled 50,000 tonnes of beef suspected to have been contaminated with horse, asking hundreds of companies across Europe supplied by Selten to check their products.

Selten’s company was on Tuesday declared bankrupt and placed under curatorship.

Lawyer Peters had argued on Tuesday that the recall was “disproportionate” and “bizarre and bordering on the mass hysteria gripping the whole of Europe”.

He said there had never been a complaint in the 22 years in which Selten’s company distributed meat from the small Dutch town of Oss, stressing: “All his meat comes from within the European Union.”

The NVWA said it had sent a letter to 130 Dutch companies who were supplied with possible horse-contaminated beef from the Selten company, asking them to “take it off the market as a precautionary measure” and “verify all products.”