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Nestlé Recall and Mafia Connections: 5 Things You Should Know As Horse Meat Scandal Grows

The lessons extend far beyond meat products, and far beyond Europe.

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So, are we really shocked?

2. A Tangled Web

Horse meat has ended up in so-called beef products to varying degrees — some have been found to contain traces of horse DNA, which may have been the result of processing plants not properly cleaning equipment. And some products have been found to contain upward of 80 to 100 percent horse meat, which signals a much larger problem. 

Getting to the bottom of how this came about has involved a lot of finger pointing. In Ireland, the ABP Food Group blamed supplies in Netherlands and Spain, and later Poland. “Five weeks into the scandal and the links in the Irish chain have still not been fully established,” writes the Guardian's Lawrence.” But this gets even more interesting in France, as she explains:  

Comigel had subcontracted its ready meal production to a factory in Luxembourg, Tavola. It was supplied with meat by a company called Spanghero. Spanghero had bought meat from a Dutch fraudster already convicted of passing horse off as beef, Jan Fasen.

The Dutch trader ran a company called Draap, which spelled backwards is paard or Dutch for horse. It was registered in Cyprus in 2008, with an offshore vehicle in the British Virgin Islands. It emerged during Fasen's trial in Holland that he had supplied French companies with horsemeat imported from South America and Mexico fraudulently labelled as Dutch and German "beef" going back to 2007.

The horsemeat found in the recent tests on ready meals exported from France was said to have been sourced by Draap from Romania. The Romanian government has said its meat was legally exported correctly labeled as horse. The French government said Spanghero was the first agent to stamp the horse as beef; Spanghero has denied doing so deliberately. Fasen says Spanghero and French manufacturers were in on the deception from the beginning.

It turns out there may be a whole lot more criminal to this case.

3. Trouble in Romania

It just so happens that Romania may have an excess of dead horses on its hands. John Lichfield of the Independent reports that a change in traffic rules is to blame:

Horse-drawn carts were a common form of transport for centuries in Romania, but hundreds of thousands of the animals are feared to have been sent to the abattoir after the change in road rules.

The law, which was passed six years ago but only enforced recently, also banned carts drawn by donkeys, leading to speculation among food-industry officials in France that some of the “horse meat” which has turned up on supermarket shelves in Britain, France and Sweden may, in fact, turn out to be donkey meat. “Horses have been banned from Romanian roads and millions of animals have been sent to the slaughterhouse,” said Jose Bove, a veteran campaigner for small farmers who is now vice-president of the European Parliament agriculture committee.

While the explanation of where some of the horse meat could have come from is straightforward, how it got to dinner plates is not. As Lichfield explains, “It came from abattoirs in Romania through a dealer in Cyprus working through another dealer in Holland to a meat plant in the south of France which sold it to a French-owned factory in Luxembourg which made it into frozen meals sold in supermarkets in 16 countries.”

4. Blame the Mafia

From here, the story just gets weirder. Jamie Doward reports for the Observer that organized international gangs are suspected of involvement in the scandal. Doward writes:

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