Horse Meat Scandal Unsettles Europe

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If you've ordered beef in Europe recently, there is a chance you have been eating horse or even donkey meat.

The Romanian government admitted to exporting more than 6,000 tons of horse, mule, and donkey meat last year. But they insists that it was correctly labeled when it was sent to at least eight other European countries.

The announcement has touched off a scandal, one that is making politicians nervous.

The meat was processed at 35 different Romanian plants, including one in the town of Botosani, home of the Doly Colm plant.

Plant general manager Lulian Cazacut insisted that all of the products his company put on the market are certified from the point of view of quality and origin.

"One hundred percent," he claimed.

But somewhere along the line, the horse and donkey meat was labeled as beef. And that has spurred investigations throughout the continent.

The British grocery chain, Tesco, announced that some samples of their frozen spaghetti meat contained up to 60 percent horse meat.

"This is completely unacceptable. That's why it is right that the secretary of state has led meetings with retailers and producers," British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament. "We're agreed to a tougher inspection regime. We've asked hospitals and schools and prisons to check with their suppliers that they are testing the products."

But Britain may have to look closer to home for the source of the wrongly labeled meat. British food safety authorities raided a slaughterhouse in northern England and a meat processing plant in Wales this week. The owners are suspected of selling horse meat used in burgers and kebabs.

It's a violation of the law that all European governments are trying to get a handle on.

"It is completely unacceptable that anybody should be involved in the production or the sale of a processed beef product which includes horse," British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said.

Predictably, some British shoppers have not reacted well to the news.

"I'm disgusted," one woman exclaimed. "I think it's really bad. I don't understand how they can allow it."

One British man said, "It's more immoral, I think, as much as anything else. They're selling it off to be something it isn't." 

Mark Woolfe, a former member of the U.K. Food Standards Authority, warned that beef products aren't the only meat items that may be mislabelled.

"If I was a retailer, I would be looking at my lamb products as well," he said.

The meat scandal is now clearly on the radar screen of European officials. But until they track down the source of the faulty and illegal labeling, the watchword seems to be, "let the diner beware."

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