POLICE raids on two meat firms – including the first UK abattoir suspected of passing off horsemeat as beef – take the scandal to a whole new level.
They make it impossible to argue that the problem is confined to longer supply chains where there is more scope for things to go wrong.
Until now, the finger of blame has pointed to overseas suppliers as being the source of beef products contaminated with horsemeat.
Alleged culprits have included meat processing plants and food manufacturers in Romania, Poland, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
Local butchers and smaller UK abattoirs have escaped any blame – with many reporting increased sales as consumers shun ready-meals.
In fact, Defra secretary Owen Paterson (pictured above) has gone as far as recommending shoppers should “buy British” when purchasing beef.
But the latest developments point to problems much closer to home as well.
This is precisely the scenario farm leaders have feared.
As part of its ongoing investigation into the mislabelling of meat products, police raided two UK meat facilities on Tuesday (12 February).
The Food Standards Agency believes the Peter Boddy slaughterhouse at Todmorden, West Yorkshire, supplied horse carcases to Farmbox Meats, near Aberystwyth.
Police and agency officials are looking into the circumstances through which meat – purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers – was sold when it was really horse.
Production at both plants is suspended, with all meat detained and paperwork seized, including customer lists from the two companies.
The involvement of a UK abattoir in the horsemeat scandal is potentially a nightmare situation for British livestock farmers and local butchers alike.
Shorter supply chains are supposed to be easier to police because there are fewer people involved than there are in the international meat trade.
Yet these allegations are on our doorstep.
The latest raids don’t involve meat products that have been bought and sold by brokers overseas before making their way to these shores.
They involve meat produced here, prepared here and packaged here.
Mr Boddy, who is also involved in the “live animal capture and deer and wildlife management business“, has rejected suggestions of any wrong-doing.
He says he has a licence to slaughter horses but denies supplying Farmbox.
Farmers will be hoping everything is indeed above board – anything less threatens to cast doubt on the integrity of local meat supply chains.