Eight charged in France for horsemeat trafficking

French authorities have charged eight people over their alleged role in a Europe-wide horsemeat trafficking ring dismantled last weekend, a judicial source said Thursday.

Eight charged in France for horsemeat trafficking
Eight people have been charged in France over horsemeat trafficking.

The suspects were charged in the southern port city of Marseille, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous and gave no details as to their nationality.

The EU's judicial agency Eurojust announced Saturday that 26 people from seven European countries, including France, Belgium and Britain had been detained as part of a probe into the ring, which is accused of introducing horsemeat unfit for human consumption into the food chain.

The arrests came two years after a major scandal triggered by the discovery that horsemeat was being passed off as beef in burgers and other meat products sold across Europe.

Meatballs, sausages and frozen burgers were pulled from supermarket shelves by the millions over the find.

Eurojust did not say whether there was any connection between the recent arrests and the 2013 horsemeat scandal.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France allows charities to take horsemeat meals

The French government has given the green light for food aid charities to hand out thousands of recalled ready meals containing horsemeat to the country’s most needy.

France allows charities to take horsemeat meals
Volunteers from the 'Restos du coeur' ('Restaurants with heart') food charity in Paris on November 26th, 2012. Photo: Patrick Kovarik

French supermarkets including frozen food giant Picard have recalled thousands of ready-made dishes found to contain horsemeat, despite being labelled as beef.

Not wishing to see tonnes of food go to waste, three food aid charities – Restos du Coeur (restaurants with heart), Secours Populaire (People rescue) and Banque Alimentaire (the food bank) – expressed an interest in getting hold of the meals and re-distributing them among the poor, as long as they posed no health risk.

They called on the French government to allow them the chance to commandeer the meals from the various companies

On Thursday Consumer Affairs Minister Benoît Hamon answered their call giving the green light for Findus and Picard and other companies caught up in the scandal to hand over the dinners as long as they were re-labelled.

"Those who benefit from these meals have the right to know what they are eating," Hamon told RMC radio.

The ball is now in the court of the charities who will have to decide whether they have the money and the means to take the frozen meals, which will need to be transported in special refrigerated trucks.

"We can understand if the charities refuse," Hamon said. "It is up to them as to whether they take them or not."

Speaking to The Local earlier this month, the director of the French Federation of Food Banks, Maurice Lony, said their goal "is to fight waste".

"These products are now in storage, awaiting some sort of resolution," he said. "So if they can’t be sold, we could take them and distribute them to deprived people."

However, Lony pointed out that his organization would also need health tests to be performed before handing them out, as well as gauging the appetites of food-bank users around the country, a process which he says they have already started.

“In the north of France there’s more of a culture of eating horsemeat, so people in that region are saying ‘yes’ to the meals. But in the south-west, for example, our users would be less ready to take the products,” said Lony.

When asked whether he himself would eat one of the packaged meals in question, Lony replied “Yes, it wouldn't bother me.”

The French Red Cross have said however that they would not be interested in handing out the frozen meals found to contain horsemeat on moral grounds.

"Products that are not offered to the general public should not be offered to the poor," an official told Europe1 radio. "It is a question of dignity."