A desolate abattoir in a remote corner of Romania was on Monday night revealed as one of the main sources of the horsemeat in British supermarkets.
The slaughterhouse dominates the tiny village of Roma, in the north east of the country, and makes no secret of the hundreds, if not thousands, of horses it butchers each year.
Visitors to the plant, which employs a fifth of the village’s 1 000 inhabitants, are greeted by an enormous hoarding displaying a grazing horse next to a cow.
Romanian authorities have identified this meat processing plant, run by Doly-Com, as one of two sources of the horsemeat at some point fraudulently labelled as beef. The other is the firm CarmOlimp in Brasov, Transylvania.
Agriculture minister Daniel Constantin on Monday night confirmed the exported horsemeat came from the two abattoirs but furiously denied they had been responsible for mis-selling the meat.
On Monday, Iulian Cazacut, general director of Doly-Com, admitted to “buying horses from anyone” for slaughter but insisted the firm had done nothing wrong. He told the Mail the firm is now under investigation but said: “Everything that we sold was correctly labelled and recorded. We sold horsemeat as horsemeat. We are being investigated by the Romanian authorities.
“Officials from the Food Safety Agency have been here. We have sold horsemeat abroad. We do not export horsemeat to France but we export to the Netherlands, Sweden and Bulgaria. Horsemeat is a small part of our business - 5 percent.
‘We buy horses from anyone - people who just pass by or from people who are getting rid of horses from farms that are shutting down or mechanising.”
Carm-Olimp, which is owned by the father of a junior Romanian agriculture minister, also claimed not to have mis-sold horsemeat as beef.
Paul Soneriu, its director, said: “We only exported horse meat as horse meat. We did not export any beef in 2012.”
A maze of trading between wholesalers has made it increasingly difficult to trace the origins of the meat - enabling horse disguised as beef to be sold in frozen meals across Europe.
The horse meat found in British foods, including Findus and Tesco own label brands, had passed through several countries before ending up on our shelves.
Meat from Romania, which exports £10 million of horse flesh a year, was at first sold to a trader in the Netherlands who was fulfilling an order placed by a Cypriot entrepreneur. The Cypriot then sold the meat to French firm Spanghero - which supplies meat to Comigel - the company that made meals for Findus and Tesco at their factory in Luxembourg.
It appears that while the meat was sent to the Netherlands it was paid for by money sent from Cyprus.
Romania’s prime minister on Monday claimed any fraud over horse meat sold as beef had not happened in his country and he was angered by suggestions it might have been.
Victor Ponta said: “There is no breach of European rules. committed by companies from Romania or on Romanian territory.
“I am very angry, to be honest. It is very clear that the French company did not have any direct contract with the Romanian company and ... it has to be established where the fraud was committed and who is responsible for this fraud.”
Horse and carts remain a common means of transport in the Romanian countryside and some can even be seen on the edges of major cities. - Daily Mail