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Coveney: 'I suspect this isn't just one rogue trader, it's broader than that'

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney described the complex supply chain that led to one case of horsemeat ending up in frozen beef products in an interview this morning.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

AGRICULTURE MINISTER SIMON Coveney believes the horsemeat scandal that has hit a number of EU countries including Ireland is not confined to one rogue trader selling horsemeat labelled as beef.

He was speaking after the European Union health commissioner yesterday called on member states to carry out mandatory tests on beef and horsemeat products to ascertain the scale of the problem.

The tests will see 2,500 European beef products undergo mandatory DNA testing for horse content, and 1,500 imported horsemeat samples tested for the dangerous equine medicine ‘bute’.

Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the tests were “a start” and said that this was now an “EU-wide problem” that required an EU-wide response.

Giving one example of the scale of the problem he referred to test results in the UK where Findus lasagne and bolognaise was found to have 100 per cent horsemeat instead of beef. He explained:

“Those products were produced by a Swedish company who actually sourced processed product from a French company in Luxembourg, who sourced product through a Cypriot trader, who sourced through the Netherlands and the Netherlands actually sourced horsemeat from Romania.

“So you begin to realise that actually this is commodity cheap meat moving around the European Union and somebody in that supply chain has fraudulently sold horsemeat as beef.”

Coveney said that European ministers were “determined to get to the bottom” of the issue and added that the continent’s transnational police network, Europol, will be tasked with finding who was at fault and will ultimately try to prosecute people.

He said: “I suspect that this isn’t just one trader, one rogue trader in one country, I think that it’s broader than that.

“I think there are a number of people who have been selling horsemeat as beef and so it’s taking some time to get the bottom of it.”

The Minister said there was “genuine co-operation happening now between countries”.

He said that Polish vets had been in Ireland yesterday to examine evidence collected by the Department of Agriculture about the source of meat products produced here that contained equine DNA.

He added that he expected further EU-wide tests to be carried out in April and May.

Each test will cost roughly €400 each, and this cost will be shared by the European Commission.

More: Brussels calls for mandatory beef DNA tests across the EU

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Hugh O'Connell

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