French police have arrested 21 suspects as a result of a large-scale crackdown on alleged illegal trade in horse meat, reports Reuters. Roughly one hundred police were deployed in the south of France to search through slaughterhouses and in the offices of meat traders.
In contrast to the horse meat scandal last spring, this time it centers on no less than hundreds of horses originating from laboratories belonging to the pharmaceutical industry or from private stables. The horses were issued with counterfeit veterinary documents and so ended on butchers’ slabs. According to German channel n-tv.de it has been alleged that some of the animals were bought from the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. The company reacted saying that it is fully cooperating in the investigation.
According to an investigative officer, “We had the case of a horse from a private stable that (…) ended at the slaughterhouse, although it had been treated with medicines and therefore was no longer suitable for consumption. … And there were horses from laboratories. Either their blood was taken for producing vaccines or they were lab-test animals. … But in any case none of the animals should have ever been allowed to land on your plate.”
The case which is being investigated from Marseille has tracked the masterminds of this latest illegal meat trade to a dealer based in the city of Narbonne.
This latest suspicion of illegal trade in horse meat is yet another blow to the meat industry. Only last spring French company Spanghero had stood at the centre of the European horse meat scandal. It sold horse meat labelled as beef that went on sale in frozen and convenience food in several European countries.