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Fraud inspectors tell French horsemeat trial unusual origin was red flag

[PARIS] French anti-fraud inspectors testifying in the trial over a 2013 "horsemeat-for-beef" scandal told a court Monday that their suspicions were aroused at one processing plant by meat that was unusually cheap and from a country with "no cattle industry".

Two former executives from France and two Dutch traders face a range of serious fraud charges which could see them sentenced to up to ten years in jail over the alleged scam.

Millions of meals were recalled from supermarkets across Europe in 2013 after they were found to contain horsemeat and not beef.

On the trial's fourth day, French anti-fraud agency officials said they noted suspicions over the Romanian origins of meat presented as beef and by its price and route the meat had taken.

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"In Romania, there is no cattle industry", but rather pork or poultry, said Alain Boismartel, one of the inspectors.

During the inspection in Castelnaudary in southern France, the inspectors also believed the price was too low for the quality of beef presented and they were wary of the route it had been shipped.

Supermarkets across Europe pulled millions of products like frozen lasagne and meatballs from shelves in 2013 after the scandal broke, deepening wariness about the meat industry and food safety.

The four men are accused of helping organise the sale of 500 tonnes of horsemeat in 2012-2013 to a subsidiary of Comigel, a French company whose frozen meals were sold to 28 companies in 13 European countries.

The alleged racket saw cheap horsemeat from Belgium, Romania and Canada imported into France and then labelled incorrectly as beef, with the meat processing company Spanghero and the Dutch middlemen pocketing the profits.

AFP