Police from seven European countries have arrested 26 people in a crackdown on a horse meat trafficking ring. The arrests come just two years after a tainted meat scandal rocked the European Union.
The arrests highlight worldwide issues with food sourcing and tracking. Even in America knowing where, precisely, your meat comes from is a difficult task with very few meat vendors having complete farm to table accountability in their supply chains.
The EU Department of Agriculture has confirmed that its department vets along with police took part in the investigations.
The EU’s judicial agency, Eurojust, said in a statement that the arrests “succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade of illegal horse meat.”
The operation involved officers from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain, the European Union agency said.
Eurojust did not specify where exactly the 26 suspects were arrested but the Dutch public prosecutor’s office said three were arrested in the Netherlands.
France, notoriously hawkish on food safety, had requested the trio’s extradition, the prosecutors added.
Media in Belgium said four of its citizens, including the alleged ringleader, were arrested in France.
Eurojust said the main suspect in the network, which is accused of introducing unfit for human consumption horse meat into the European food chain, was from Belgium.
The suspect, who was operating out of Belgium, had been under investigation since 2012, the officials added.
It is estimated that between 2010 and 2013 some 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered for the food trade, Eurojust said.
Police across europe searched dozens of commercial and private premises and more than 800 horse passports were seized along with medication, microchips and computer equipment.
The arrests are reminiscent of the scandal two years ago which were triggered by the discovery that horsemeat being passed off as beef in burgers and other meat products sold across Europe.
Meatballs, sausages and frozen burgers were recalled from supermarket shelves by the millions over the find.
Eurojust declined to say whether there was any connection between the current investigation and the 2013 horsemeat scandal.