Officers seize 1,733 pounds of the highly contaminated beef from a supermarket in Sao Paulo
Brazilian officials say they have uncovered a gang that made vast quantities of horse meat hidden as beef to avoid taxes and customs duties, and then sold it across Brazil and to Europe.
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More than 1,700 tons of horse meat were seized from the navy store in Porto Alegre, in the centre of Brazil, which is one of the country’s biggest beef cities, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
The meat was contaminated with a parasite that could cause colitis – a type of colic, which causes severe abdominal pain – and lead to cancer, the statement said.
The ministry says 628 tonnes of horse meat have already been sent for testing. Six of the 11 suspects, which include vets, accountants and distributors, have been arrested, the ministry said.
“The criminals that committed this fraud, the ones who falsified the paper records to hide the real contents of the horse meat, are criminals of international importance,” it said.
“This is just the beginning of our investigation. This is not the end of our effort.”
Last year, European authorities uncovered a crime ring that sold horse meat masquerading as beef to unwitting consumers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.
Authorities in Ireland, Romania, Austria and Germany said there were also cases of horse meat being sold as beef.
Horse meat has become a popular product in Europe since the discovery of horse DNA in beef and veal products at a supermarket in Ireland in 2013.