Horse meat scandal: Three arrested at suspect UK plants
The owner of a meat processing plant was arrested last night along with two other men by officers investigating the horse meat scandal.
Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, the owner of Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, was detained on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act, sources said, along with a 42-year-old man.
A 63-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence at Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
Both plants were inspected on Tuesday by the Food Standards Agency. Owner Mr Boddy, said on Wednesday he had done nothing wrong and insisted the FSA inspection was merely to look at his records, but was last night unavailable for comment.
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A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesman said: “Dyfed-Powys Police have today made arrests at both meat plants inspected by the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday. At Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, Dyfed-Powys Police have arrested two men aged 64 years and 42 years, and in a simultaneous operation police arrested a man aged 63 at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
“Approvals for both operations were suspended yesterday by the FSA so neither firm was operational. Dyfed-Powys Police can confirm the three people have been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act and they are being detained at Aberystwyth Police Station, where they will be interviewed jointly by police and FSA staff in what has this afternoon become a joint operation.”
The two plants became the first UK suppliers suspected of passing off horse meat for beef. Production at both plants was suspended pending the outcome of investigations into claims they supplied and used horse carcasses in meat products purporting to be beef for burgers and kebabs.
The FSA said on Tuesday it had “detained” all meat found at the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two companies.
The arrests were made as Asda withdrew its 500g beef bolognese sauce from shelves after tests revealed the presence of horse DNA, the supermarket chain said last night.
The company apologised to customers and said it was taking a “belt-and-braces approach” by removing a further three beef products made by the same supplier, the Greencore plant in Bristol, as a precaution.
Police arrested the men after it emerged a significant amount of horse meat containing the painkiller Phenylbutazone – or “bute” – could have been entering the food chain for some time. Authorities in Britain and France are trying to trace the carcasses of six horses contaminated with bute – which were slaughtered in a UK abattoir and may have entered the human food chain across the Channel.
The drug, which is potentially harmful to human health, was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the FSA in the first week of this month. Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horse meat is commonly eaten. FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said the agency increased testing of horse carcasses over a three-month period last year after intelligence from abattoirs suggested bute was getting into the food chain.
Of 63 tested – amounting to five per cent of all carcasses – four (six per cent) tested positive for the painkiller, prompting the FSA to start testing 100 per cent of horse meat in January, which revealed the eight contaminated carcasses.
Ms Brown said: “That would say there has been a significant amount of carcasses with bute going into the food chain for some time.”
However, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale in the UK after the discovery of traces of horse meat found no evidence of the substance.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said that although the drug was linked to side-effects in patients who have been taking it as a medicine for arthritis, the risk was very low.
“If you ate 100 per cent horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose,” she said.
The highest level of bute found in tests was 1.9 milligrammes per kilo of meat.
Ms Brown said both vets and horse owners have to sign horse passports if an animal is treated with bute, to ensure it is not subsequently sold on for human consumption.
“If both these people have done the right thing, horses with bute in don’t make their way into the food chain,” she said. “Someone has always broken the rules.”
The six bute-contaminated horses which were sent to France had been slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman’s (Somerset) Ltd near Taunton, Somerset, said the FSA. The remaining two, slaughtered at High Peak Meat Exports Ltd in Nantwich, Cheshire, did not leave the slaughterhouse and have been destroyed.
Announcing the results of the bute tests in the House of Commons, agriculture minister David Heath said the Government had instigated the “biggest investigation ever” into criminal activity in Europe over horse meat contamination of beef products.
The FSA is set to report on UK products today after retailers and suppliers were asked to provide “meaningful results” from tests to detect the presence of horse meat in processed meals labelled as beef.
But shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh accused the Government of “catastrophic complacency” over the danger of bute entering the human food chain.
Reminding Mr Heath that she had raised the issue with him in the Commons last month, Ms Creagh said she was “astonished” to learn that contaminated horse meat may have been sent to France for human consumption.
“We must make sure horse meat intended for humans is not contaminated with bute, it really is as simple as that,” she said.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: ‘‘It is incredibly important that we get to the bottom of what is happening. We are working very closely with French authorities.”