British lawmakers blast slow horsemeat scandal probe

LONDON, Greater London (AFP) - British lawmakers on Tuesday condemned the slow pace of the investigation into Europe's horsemeat scandal, with no prosecutions in Britain six months after the problems emerged.

Parliament's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said British and Irish authorities had failed to recognise the scale of the scandal, which led to thousands of beef products being pulled from supermarkets across Europe after they were found to contain horsemeat.

"We are concerned at the failure of authorities in both the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the extent of this and to bring prosecutions," the committee said in a report.

It added that the scandal had revealed that a "complex, highly organised network" of companies were involved in the "fraudulent and illegal" mislabelling of meat.

"We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and would like assurance that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or other illegal activity," the report added.

The lawmakers acknowledged that horsemeat was found in a "relatively small" number of beef products, with only 4.66 per cent of products tested across the European Union found to contain more than one percent of horse DNA.

The scandal started in January, when beefburgers sold in several British and Irish supermarket chains were found to contain horsemeat, before spreading to more than a dozen other countries.

A spokesman for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministry said it had set up an independent review into how the problem was able to go undetected.

"The police are investigating how products containing horsemeat came to be on sale in the UK and they will take action where any unlawful activity has taken place," the spokesman added.

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