Verifications made by local authorities show no infringement of European rules by companies operating on Romanian soil. The prime minister emphasised that local authorities will collaborate with European officials to identify the real culprits, warning that Romania should not be treated as ‘the usual suspect.’
The verifications made by Bucharest authorities led to the conclusion that there is no infringement of European rules by companies operating on Romanian soil with regard to the horsemeat scandal, PM Victor Ponta said in a joint press conference held at the Ministry of Agriculture with Minister Daniel Constantin and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos.
The Minister of Agriculture and the other authorities with attributions in this field will demand, on Romania’s behalf, that the companies involved in the horsemeat scandal “from France, Luxembourg or other country” are directly responsible, because Romania should not be treated as “the usual suspect,” Ponta added.
He explained that the French firm did not have a direct contract with Romania-based companies. “We did our job in Romania, we have full transparency so we do not affect the credibility of producer. We are interested in finding those responsible for changing the name and destination of those products,” the premier mentioned. “This is fraud, not a public health issue, and fraud must be punished,” Ponta went on.
In his turn, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos said that European authorities, respectively the European Commission do not have data that would incriminate one member state or another. “Based on the information I have now, Romanian authorities collaborated well with the European Commission in the row surrounding the horsemeat, and now they process the regular data provided by veterinary authorities. (…) It is important that each member and veterinary authorities do their job and clarify the situation soon,” Ciolos stated. The commissioner added that “it is also in our interest to rapidly solve this issue, because the credibility of a sector is at stake.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Daniel Constantin explained that “there is no hint that the mislabelling of the horsemeat took place in Romania.” According to the minister, the suspicions that have appeared so far in the foreign press about this scandal are not confirmed. There currently are 35 slaughterhouses authorised to sacrifice horses in Romania, but only two of them were announced by the French side as possibly involved – one in Botosani and another in Brasov – the minister informed. Three abattoirs in Prahova are allowed to slaughter horses in 2012 and 2013, but only one has sacrificed horses, selling the meat to companies in Romania and Bulgaria, while in Brasov there are two such abattoirs, where in the last days have been made checks without being discovered irregularities, according to the Sanitary-Veterinary and Food Safety Department.
In this context of horsemeat scandal, the French ambassador in Bucharest, Philippe Gustin, had yesterday a meeting at Victoria Palace with PM Victor Ponta, as Mediafax informed.
Carmolimp: The French actions, a serious attack against the local meat industry
Carmolimp, one of the major meat producers and suppliers, announced Monday that it delimits itself from the row that irrupted in France, which it considers as an unprecedented attack against the Romanian meat industry. “During the whole year 2012, the Carmolimp group did not export beef, so the horsemeat could not have been mislabelled. Carmolimp officials consider as a shame, to say the least, the attempt of Spanghero and Comigel to cast the blame on Romanian producers. If the horsemeat left Romania, it could only be labelled as horsemeat. If the French processor mistook the meat, then it certainly was the first day in its life when it processed meat,” Carmolimp wrote in a press release.
France summons meat industry chiefs
French ministers are to hold talks with key players in the meat industry as the horsemeat scandal widens to up to 16 countries, France 2 informs. Seven French supermarket chains have withdrawn frozen beef meals made by Findus and Comigel. Anti-fraud agents on Monday visited the Comigel and Spanghero plants, through which the meat passed before reaching supermarkets. The move followed the discovery that foods sold in Europe and the UK labelled as beef contained horsemeat. Those responsible for disguising horsemeat as beef in frozen ready-to-eat meals must be punished, French President Francois Hollande said on Monday. “There were evidently breaches, profits, unacceptable behaviour, and sanctions must be pronounced, and they should be administrative and penal if this is justified,” he said in his first comment on the growing Europe-wide scandal, globalpost.com.
The scandal has raised questions about the complexity of the food industry’s supply chains across the EU. Food Minister Guillaume Garot said he wanted to ensure that all contentious products had been removed. Leading to speculation among food-industry officials in France is 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.
The French consumer minister, Benoît Hamon, said yesterday that he would not hesitate to take legal action if evidence emerged that the two French companies which handled the meat had been aware of the fraud. The head of France’s ANIA food industry association, Jean-Rene Buisson, who was due to attend the talks with the government, insisted Monday that his country’s regulatory system was “the best in the world”. “We are not responsible for the fraud of one of our suppliers,” he told Europe 1 radio. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said there is no evidence to suggest the horse meat detected poses a danger to humans, but confirmed tests have been ordered on products for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone as animals treated with “bute” are not allowed to enter the food chain. Furthermore, the Sun tabloid said that horses in Romania are commonly infected with a killer disease which is similar to AIDS in humans.
The horse meat scandal is the result of a criminal fraud conspiracy, the British government has said. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said for BBC the abuse of the food industry could have been on an “extensive” scale throughout Europe.