Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) – A gang that sold tons of horse meat disguised as beef in Brazil sold the meat in 40 countries including the UK, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, according to a report released Wednesday by Brazilian food authorities.
According to the report by the Brazilian ministry of agriculture, trucks carrying 27 tons of the meat were intercepted last November by Brazilian authorities and intercepted at Brazilian ports.
After inspecting the meat, Brazilian officials said they found “horses” – more than 5,200 tons in total – sold under the label as beef and officially labeled as horse meat.
The inspector for the ministry of agriculture tells CNN his sources for the story initially were Romanian horse sellers. The source later confirmed that the ranchers were Macedonian, according to the report.
The gang’s action is similar to that of a similar gang that also operated in neighboring Uruguay and Mexico, according to the report.
“We are asking the prosecutor to open an investigation of the people who worked in Italy. This is new business and we have not done this before,” Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told news station Globo.
Although horse meat often circulates in Brazil in the wholesale market, the ministry’s report says there is no evidence the criminals produced horse meat specifically for the market.
A. Dentura, director of retail with Brazil’s meat industry association ABPA, told Globo that meat can be adulterated in any country, regardless of the country of origin.
The horse meat was sold under labels for 10 brands produced in the north of Brazil, and authorities confiscated equipment used to mix horse meat with beef and other products and an operation plan, according to ABPA.
The Ministry of Agriculture told CNN that ABPA officials are helping the prosecutor’s office to identify those under investigation. ABPA president Bruno Souza told Globo that the ministry has not yet received confirmation of any prosecution.
A. Dentura said the horse meat was inspected by the ministry of agriculture before going to Uruguay, and that it was stable before it went to Uruguay. “There was nothing different,” he said.