Horsemeat scandal: Romanian poverty fuels trade

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RomaniaN horse carcases have found their way across Europe through processors and middlemen and finally into frozen meals masquerading as beef.

The regular supply results from farmers, too poor to own tractors, selling beasts too old to work

Increasing globalisation in food production and pressure from retailers to drive down costs has created a complicated supply chain, particularly for processed foods with multiple separately sourced inputs, raising the risk of adulteration to save money through cheaper ingredients or through poor regulatory standards.

However, Romanian officials say their abattoirs meet EU standards have cleared the two possible sources of the horsemeat, one in Transylvania and the other at Botosani.

“If you are looking for a guilty party in this, it is rural poverty in Romania,” said Stuart Meikle, an agricultural investment adviser who has run a farming business in Romania.

“This is part of a much wider rural poverty issue. The government has glossed over it, and the international community has largely not bothered to find out what is really happening.”

Agriculture in Romania is outdated, with fragmented farmland. Florin Dumitru, like millions of subsistence farmers in Romania, will have no choice when the horse that ploughs his scrap of land can no longer earn its keep.

“What do you have to do when he can’t plough or pull a cart any more? You just sell it to the slaughterhouse to butcher it,” said Mr Dumitru, 40.