BUCHAREST, Romania — A maze of trading between meat wholesalers has made it increasingly difficult to trace the origins of food — enabling horse meat disguised as beef to be sold in frozen meals across Europe.
Finger-pointing has grown by the day, involving more countries and more companies. On Monday, Romanian officials scrambled to defend two plants implicated in the scandal, saying the meat was properly declared and any fraud was committed elsewhere.
France says Romanian butchers and Dutch and Cypriot traders were part of a supply chain that resulted in horse meat being labeled as beef before it was included in frozen dinners including lasagna, moussaka and the French equivalent of Shepherd's Pie. The controversy started earlier this year with worries about horse meat in burgers in Ireland and Britain.
British grocery chain Tesco said Monday that tests showed some samples of its frozen spaghetti meal contained more than 60 percent horse DNA.
Horse meat is largely taboo in Britain and some other countries, though in France it is sold in specialty butcher shops and is prized by some connoisseurs. Authorities aren't worried about health effects, but it has unsettled consumers across Europe and raised questions about producers misleading the public.
France's agricultural minister said that regulators must find a way "out of the fog."
One of the Romanian slaughterhouses implicated, Carmolimp, said in a statement its meat was properly labeled as horse meat, adding that it had not exported beef in 2012.
It called attempts to blame it for the scandal "shameful," suggesting that only an incompetent French meat processor would mistake the horse meat for beef.