Horsemeat scandal spreads

  • 2013-03-06
  • From wire reports

RIGA - Management at the Rimi supermarket chain has ordered all products from meat supplier Rezeknes galas kombinata (RGK), labeled as containing beef, to be removed from all stores in all three Baltic States, reports This is in reaction to the findings of the Lithuanian Food and Veterinary Service, announced Rimi spokesperson Laura Podskocija.
Podskocija mentioned the deception of consumers as to product ingredients as the reason for halting retail sales. The ban will be in effect until further action, she added.

Maxima’s Ivars Andins reported that his chain is awaiting results from the Latvian Food and Veterinary Service about specific RGK products, adding that at this time there is “no information confirming or rejecting that RKG’s canned meat has ‘problems.’”
The Rimi Estonian store chain has withdrawn from sale canned meat dishes made in Latvia that are suspected of containing horsemeat, reports Aripaev Online.

Rimi Eesti Food informed the Estonian Veterinary and Food Board on March 4 that in connection with the orders of the Lithuanian Veterinary and Food Board to stop selling the canned meat dishes made by Latvian company Rezeknes galas kombinats, which contained horsemeat that wasn’t declared, Rimi Estonia also withdrew a number of canned meat dishes from Estonian stores that were produced for Rimi Estonia by the Latvian  firm.
Aripaev reported that similar products are on sale in other Estonian retail chains too.

Tests confirm horsemeat
Estonian Veterinary and Food Board head Ago Partel said that according to the Lithuanian Veterinary and Food Board’s confirmation, a very modest percentage of horsemeat was discovered in a few canned meat dishes from a Latvian company and that the exact product names and shipment numbers would be revealed in the near future.
In last week’s developments in the horsemeat scandal, Rimi Latvia and a number of other chain stores in Latvia are no longer selling the company Forevers products labeled as beef. Rimi Latvia, Maxima, Elvi, Iki, and top! stores have taken all Forevers products labeled as beef off the shelves, saying this is in the consumers’ interest and until further notice from the Food and Veterinary Service, which is currently probing Forevers business activities.

The Food and Veterinary Service has launched inspections at Latvian slaughterhouses and meat-processing companies in the wake of the “horsemeat debacle” sweeping Europe. 416 horses were slaughtered in Latvia in 2012, including 272 at the AIBI slaughterhouse. Their meat - 203 horses - was supplied to meat-processing company Forevers.

The Food and Veterinary Service continues to inspect both companies. Nevertheless, it is already clear that AIBI horsemeat was labeled as beef in nearly all cases.
Horsemeat is not noted in Forevers’ product labels. The company’s product samples were tested by German laboratory Eurofins/GfA, establishing the presence of horsemeat in them. The Food and Veterinary Service has also established violations at Vilumene, Kalnpierbes and Musino slaughterhouses and meat supplier Heinors.
Horsemeat is also used in the production of several food products, for instance, sausages, which must be noted in their labels. Horsemeat is cheaper than beef, and when customers are not informed about the presence of horsemeat in products they buy, this is considered fraud.

The Food and Veterinary Service says that Forevers will now have to recall all of the meat that it has labeled incorrectly and re-label the packaging.
The company will still be permitted to sell its products, but before this it will have to prove that these products do not include horse meat, or otherwise include labels on the packaging that the meat products include horse meat.
It was the Food and Veterinary Service that established suspicious activities with horsemeat at several Latvian slaughterhouses and companies, said Food and Veterinary Service representative Ilze Meistere.
When the Food and Veterinary Service received information about the “horsemeat scandal” in Europe, it launched inspections at Latvian slaughterhouses and meat-processing companies.

Deception the norm
Due to various reasons, Latvia’s meat-processing companies generally do not want to accept horsemeat from slaughterhouses, therefore it is a common practice to label horsemeat as beef, slaughterhouse Vilumene head Maija Vidomska said to Meat-processing companies want beef and they receive beef. The truth is that old horses, incapable of working any longer, end up in slaughterhouses. To some extent, it is an act of mercy-killing. Farmers and vets cannot help these animals. This is done throughout Europe, they claim.

In Soviet times, massive amounts of horsemeat came to Latvia from Latin America without being publicly mentioned. “We are aware that such practices are deceptive; however, life is life,” explained Vidomska.
Last year, slaughterhouse Heinors supplied horsemeat labeled as beef to meat-processing company Forevers, admitted the slaughterhouse’s owner Edgars Turcis.
Several horses ended up at the slaughterhouse and Forevers promised to purchase them labeled as beef. It was done at the company’s request. The slaughterhouse did accept horses before. This was a single case, said Turcis.

Denying responsibility
Forevers blames rivals for smearing the company’s name and wanting to take over a successfully operating company with an annual turnover of around 15 million lats (21.4 million euros), claims Forevers’ scientific consultant and veterinarian Anita Lancmane. Forevers questions the findings of the Eurofins/GfA laboratory. The company doubts that the laboratory has received its products.

Lancmane claimes that Forevers will most likely turn to law enforcement authorities over the issue.
This unverified information damages the company’s reputation, she says, adding that Forever does not exclude that this is an aggressive and malevolent step taken by the company’s rivals and those wanting to re-divide the Latvian meat-processing market among themselves.