SourceFood Safety News

Three people are facing jail in the Netherlands for their roles in the horsemeat scandal of 2013.

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) imposed fines up to €150,000 ($172,000) against three companies and their executives for meat fraud.

OM set a fine of €150,000 ($172,000) against the now-bankrupt Van Hattem Vlees BV slaughterhouse and a prison sentence of 3 years against the manager. Now that the prosecutor has recommended a sanction to the court, the defense counsel will speak and then the defendant.

Meat trading firm Meatmaster BV and cold store company Grolleman Vrieshuis Exploitatie Maatschappij BCV were fined €75,000 ($86,000). Owners of these companies face a prison sentence of 18 months—of which 6 months is conditionally—with a probation period of 2 years.

The horsemeat scandal came to light in early 2013 when equine meat was detected in beef products across Europe. The motive was thought to be financial with horsemeat being cheaper than beef.

Due to forgery, about 400,000 kilos of meat could not be traced back to the source which posed potential health risks and severely undermined consumer confidence, according to the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority’s intelligence and investigation services (NVWA-IOD) unit.

The investigation by the NVWA-IOD started after complaints from England and Ireland. In January 2013 horsemeat was found in beef products from Van Hattem Vlees BV, based in Dodewaard, a town in the Netherlands. Labels stated the products only contained beef. Products were also blocked in France as they contained horsemeat while the label said it was beef.

It found “insufficient” traceability records at Van Hattem Vlees, making it no longer possible to trace where the slaughtered meat came from or went. Authorities said it was also “doubtful” that all the supplied meat was safe to eat.

OM officials said Meatmaster and Vrieshuis Grolleman “facilitated” the fraud and forgery of documents by not intervening. The companies accepted what the client asked and executed it without checking it was correct.

French trial
Meanwhile, four people are on trial in Paris, France in relation to the horsemeat scandal.

Jacques Poujol and Patrice Monguillon are two former staff of Spanghero, a meat processing company. Johannes Fasen, boss of Draap Trading, and Hendricus (or Hans) Windmeijer are two Dutch meat traders.

The former Spanghero employees are accused of fraud charges. Horsemeat labeled as beef was sold to Tavola, a subsidiary of Comigel, which sold frozen meals to companies across Europe.

The trial is expected to continue until mid-February. If convicted, the men face up to 10 years in jail and a €1 million ($1.15 million) fine.

More on the 2013 horsemeat scandal:
PODCAST Ep. 40: Chris Elliott: Food Crime--A Global Challenge