ROMANIA: Bucharest protests innocence over horse meat

By Dean Best | 11 February 2013

Romanian PM Ponta said country would not accept being "the usual suspect"

Romanian PM Ponta said country would not accept being "the usual suspect"

Romania this afternoon (11 February) insisted the two slaughterhouses in the country under scrutiny over horse meat contamination have not broken EU food rules.

Victor Ponta, the Romanian Prime Minister, said the slaughterhouses under suspicion acted properly and had not breached rules on labelling. Speaking to reporters in Bucharest today, Ponta expressed his anger at suspicions companies in Romania had sold horse meat as beef.

"The data we have right now do not indicate any violation of European rules by Romanian companies or companies operating in Romania," he said, according to The Financial Times. "I do not believe that Romania, while being transparent and observing all standards, can and should accept being the usual suspect."

Over the weekend, France said Romania was the source of the horse meat contained in Findus products that have sparked the crisis that has rocked Europe's food industry.

Initial investigations by Paris linked the contamination to an unnamed company in Romania, via traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, a meat processor in France and a lasagne producer in the country to frozen food giant Findus.

French consumer minister Benoit Hamon said the horse meat from Romania used in beef products made in France "appeared to be a case of fraud", according to an interview with the Le Parisien newspaper.

In a statement, Hamon said the investigation was continuing to find out where in France and in Europe Comigel products ended up. The minister also said the French government would look into whether there was "negligence" or whether there was fraud involved.

Romania has carried out its own investigation. According to the BBC, Romania's agriculture minister, Daniel Constantin, said the country's government was satisfied all documents back to the start of 2012 were in order.

Constantin said the orders from the two slaughterhouses, which had been checked before export, had been for horse meat. Neither of the two abbatoirs had any direct contract with Comigel, the French firm and supplier of the Findus lasagnes that also alleged the horse meat came from Romania.

Updated at 21:45 GMT on 11 February.

Expert analysis

Fast Food in Romania

Fast food also experienced a loss of pace in 2011, resulting from diminished consumer purchasing power which followed the austerity measures applied in 2010. On the other hand, the expansion of shopping centres and hypermarkets led to a change in purchasing habits and lifestyles of Romanians. Shopping in modern retailing was transformed by Romanians into leisure, with important impact on the growth of foodservice activity, increasingly popular after the finish of purchasing activity.

Sectors: Emerging markets, Food safety, Frozen, Meat & poultry, Private label, Retail

Companies: Findus

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