DUBLIN - An Irish slaughterhouse has been caught labeling horse meat as beef and shipping it to a company in the Czech Republic, Ireland's government said Friday, in the latest crackdown on alleged fraud in Europe's month-old scandal.
No other European government has pinpointed a single slaughterhouse that was mislabeling horse meat as beef. Until now, any companies found selling meat products containing hidden amounts of horse have insisted they were duped by others, while suspected slaughterhouses have insisted they either did not handle horses or labeled all horse-meat exports correctly.
But Ireland says its fraud detectives have identified the practice at B&F Meats, a small slaughterhouse in the County Tipperary town of Carrick-on-Suir that is licensed to debone both cows and horses, and immediately shut down the facility.
Ireland's Agriculture Department said in a statement that detectives had discovered that B&F Meats was shipping horse meat "to a single customer in the Czech Republic ... using a label in the Czech language which, when translated, refers to beef." Officials said the mislabeling was happening in the plant and not later in the supply chain, which included a British-based meat trader.
No officials at the plant were arrested, and Irish officials declined to specify the volume of horse meat involved or identify the Czech company that imported it.
European officials have said the region-wide scandal is the result of fraud, and possibly an international criminal conspiracy to pass off cheap horse meat as more expensive beef.
British authorities have shut down a slaughterhouse and a meat processor on suspicion of passing off horse meat as beef.
But no charges have been filed, and the businesses deny wrongdoing.
Dutch food safety experts have raided a meat processing plant as part of a criminal investigation into horse meat fraud. The unidentified company, which was temporarily closed, is believed to have processed horse meat from the Netherlands and Ireland, and mixed it with beef before selling it as "pure" beef.
Similarly, French authorities have identified the meat processor Spanghero as a source of horse meat in the human food chain, but it insists it was duped by foreign suppliers stretching from Luxembourg to Romania. And Romanian authorities said in reply that any of its horse meat sold for export was correctly labeled as horse.