For the second time this week, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta [Wednesday] leapt to the defence of its meat industry.
Last week, French authorities identified two Romanian abattoirs as the source of horsemeat later sold to consumers as beef in up to 16 other EU countries.
“It’s extremely important, more important than it appears to us watching Romanian television, because it is a European problem affecting European consumers,” said Ponta. If ministers discovered anything illegal it would not be swept “under the carpet”, he said.
Ponta also repeated there was no evidence of Romanian companies or foreign companies in Romania breaching EU rules. On Monday he said suggestions of wrongdoing by the Romanian meat industry had made him “angry”. Neither Romanian company had exported meat identified as beef.
Ponta’s message today echoed that of centre-right President Traian Basescu, a bitter political opponent of the Socialist Ponta, who said, on Sunday, that Romanian involvement in the scandal would damage the country’s image for “many years”.
French authorities had said horsemeat bought by French company Spangero was of Romanian origin, arriving via the Netherlands then Cyprus. Spangero sold it on to another French company Comigel, which supplied Findus with beef lasagne, some of which were 100% horse meat.
British tabloids had a field day with the news, digging up a Romanian scandal from 2011 in which horses were given false vets’ certificates and sent to a slaughterhouse in Letea. So far there has been no evidence of any such false vet-certification racket in this current case.
“We need to establish the facts. Currently this is a major concern in the UK, because people have bought something that was not beef and need to establish the facts and not speculate,” British Ambassador Martin Harris told a press conference today in Transylvania.
The horse meat found in the Findus products originated from two of the 35 Romanian abattoirs licensed to deal in horse meat: CarmOlimp, in the county of Brasov; and Doly-Com, in Botosani, near the Moldovan border.
CarmOlimp said it could not be guilty of falsely mislabelling horse as beef because did not export any beef in 2012. It is the family business of Valentin Şoneriu, made a junior minister of agriculture last month. Doly-Com also said it has only shipped horsemeat labelled as such.