London: A law banning horses from Romanian roads could have led to the surge in the illegal sale of horse meat on the European beef market, a French politician has said.
The law, which was passed six years ago but was enforced recently, also banned carts drawn by donkeys, which led to speculation among food-industry officials in France that some of the 'horse meat' which came to supermarkets in Britain, France and Sweden may, in fact, was donkey meat.
Jose Bove, a veteran campaigner for small farmers who is now vice-president of the European Parliament agriculture committee, said that horses have been banned from Romanian roads and millions of animals have been sent to the slaughterhouse.
According to the Independent, after a couple of days in which the horse meat affair was seen as a largely British problem, the scandal was taken seriously by French politicians and newspapers over the weekend.
The French consumer minister, Benoet Hamon, said 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.
Hamon also took a swipe at the British Government, and said that that London was complaining about weak European food inspection while cutting the budget for EU food-safety checks in Brussels, the report said.
His warning came as France's biggest supermarket chains removed more of their own-label and Findus processed dishes from their shelves, it added.
Hamon said that preliminary investigation by the French agency that combats consumer fraud had uncovered the Byzantine route taken by the 'fake' beef.
According to the report, it came from abattoirs in Romania through a dealer in Cyprus working through another dealer in Holland to a meat plant in the south of France which sold it to a French-owned factory in Luxembourg which made it into frozen meals sold in supermarkets in 16 countries.