Horse Meat Lasagna: The Secret Ingredient Is Regulatory Incompetence

French president François Hollande inspecting a plant belong to Findus, the Swedish company implicated in the horse meat scandal, in March. French president François Hollande inspecting a plant belong to Findus, the Swedish company implicated in the horse meat scandal, in March. Fred Dufour/AP

The ongoing trans-European scandal in which horse meat was passed off as beef in frozen meals sold across the continent is prompting retailers, suppliers and regulatory agencies across Europe to point fingers and proclaim their own innocence, echoing the blame game still unfolding in the wake of Europe’s debt crisis.

Britain’s environment minister, Owen Paterson, called the scandal a “conspiracy against the public,” while France’s minister for consumer affairs, Benoit Hamon, called it “a fraud” which he estimates netted its perpetrators (link in French) around €300,000.

The tenebrous supply chain described by Hamon (French) illustrates the uniquely European nature of the scandal: “The Luxembourg supplier Comigel received its produce from the French company Spanghero, whose parent, Poujol, acquired its frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, who had subcontracted the order to a Dutch trader who in turn sourced his meat from a horse butcher in Romania.” Romania has been sending many more horses to the slaughter house in recent years, since the government began enforcing a ban of horses on Romanian roads.

The deceit at the heart of the scandal was enabled in part by EU regulation, which, to encourage the free circulation of goods within the European common market, watered down the regulatory powers of individual member states and vested the ultimate responsibility for food controls with food businesses themselves.

Read the rest of this article at Quartz.

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