independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Just one prosecution planned in horse-meat controversy

AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney has said he is pursuing just one prosecution against an Irish company on foot of the horse-meat scandal.

After a UK parliamentary report criticised Ireland and Britain yesterday for failing to prosecute companies implicated, Mr Coveney said he wanted to take prosecutions but would not go to court unless he was sure he would succeed.

He was pursuing only one case against a company "we know deliberately put false labels on products" and was taking legal advice on how to proceed, he told RTE radio.

The company concerned has insisted to Department of Agriculture investigators it was not guilty of fraud because it had supplied and been paid for horsemeat as requested, but the customer buying it had asked for it to be described as beef on the Czech-language label, according to a department report on the scandal.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association beef chairman Edmond Phelan said farmers were cynical about the different treatment of them and meat companies.

CONSEQUENCES

"If a farmer breaches any minor regulation, even down to small paperwork errors, there are severe financial consequences," he said.

"Yet when there are serious issues around horse meat being passed off as beef, there seems to be no urgency about penalties. Farmers think it's one law for the little people and another law for the big boys in the meat industry."

A report by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said it was dismayed at the slow pace of investigations into the meat substitution scandal exposed by Ireland in January.

It said the evidence suggested a "complex, highly organised network of companies trading in and mislabelling frozen and processed meat or meat products in a way that fails to meet specifications and that is fraudulent and illegal.

"We are concerned at the failure of authorities in both the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the extent of this," it said.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed back in January it had found horse meat in frozen burgers, sparking a Europe-wide food crisis.

Irish Independent

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