THE HAGUE, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- A Dutch meat trader was identified as playing a prominent role in the supply chain of fraudulent meat by French anti-fraud officials.
The Cyprus-based meat trader Jan Fasen, according to local media reports, imported 60 tons of horse meat from Romania. Romanian veterinary officials confirmed that horsemeat labeled as such from the CarmOlimp slaughterhouse was bought last year by Fasen's company Draap Trading. The meat was delivered to a cold storage facility in Breda, Nemijtek Refrigeration, which is now under investigation.
"It is unacceptable to deliberately deceive consumers for profit," Dutch Junior Economic Affairs Minister Sharon Dijksma said on Thursday, adding that pre-packed products should have a label listing what it contains.
The measures include major investigations by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, an independent agency in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. They will investigate some 100 Dutch companies on fraudulent use of horsemeat.
Investigated companies will range from abattoirs to supermarkets. Inspectors will take 200 samples from meat and meat products labeled as 100 percent beef. They will also check product labels and administration of 40 related companies.
Rogier Hoerchner, lawyer for the Dutch meat vendor Draap, said in a statement the company denied misleading anyone. "Clients get what they order, Draap cannot see what is on the label of end products." However, Hoerchner acknowledged that Fasen had been previously convicted of mislabeling horsemeat as halal meat.
Jeffrey Grootenboer, director of Nemijtek Refrigeration, the cold storage company in Breda, said any pallets that arrived at Nemijtek, including horsemeat, would be picked up and taken away by the owner untouched with their labels intact.
Dutch food safety inspectors refused to release any details until the results of the investigation are complete.
Horsemeat can be hazardous to humans if it contains the horse painkiller bute. Bute is not allowed to get into food as it can cause serious complications in people. Until now, eight horses killed in Britain tested positive for the painkiller and six may have entered the food chain in France.
However, the Dutch authority stated the chances of horses given bute entering the food chain in the Netherlands were small. For precautionary reasons, tests on horsemeat will take place.
Earlier this week, several Dutch supermarkets conducted pre-emptive research and withdrew frozen lasagna products after horsemeat was detected in products not labeled as containing horsemeat.
Unlike in Britain, where the thought of eating horsemeat leads to public resentment, in the Netherlands eating horsemeat does not lead to emotional aversion.
"Dutch people know that popular Dutch snacks such as frikandellen often contain horsemeat," Roy van der Ploeg, spokesman of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, told Xinhua. "What maddens Dutch customers in the current situation is the fact that products containing horsemeat are not labeled as including horse."