Polish investigator claims country not to blame for horse meat scandal

Polish butchers are worried about the effect of the horse meat claims on their businesses. Credit: ITN

For two weeks, Poland’s meat industry has been accused of selling horse meat-contaminated products to an international market.

Now one of the country’s most senior vets, and the man overseeing its investigation, says Poland is not to blame and may be the victim of a fraud.

Jaroslaw Naze, the deputy chief veterinary officer, told ITV News he was now convinced the country was not at fault.

“Today I can now say that after the inspection of documents and the and the lab analysis that the meat which has left Poland is genuine beef," he said.

“Of course an important element of the investigation are the labels which are placed on the products, checking if they are real and haven’t been falsified or swapped.

“One has to compare the clarity of the documents and labels to check if they are original and whether someone has maybe swapped the labels or falsified the documents for their own financial or economic benefit.”

Seven slaughterhouses, one cutting plant and a coldstore within the same plant have all be subject to the Polish investigation.

They are all believed to be linked with meat found in the UK or Ireland. Marek Czerniej, the vice president of Food Service, one of the largest companies involved, insists his business cannot be the source of any contamination.

“In the 17 years we have been operating, we have never slaughtered, we have never bought, we have never processed and we have never sold any horse meat and we have not even stored horse meat,” he said.

“It is very sad for us that we have been accused of falsifying beef as horse meat and we are interested in clearing up this situation. It is, for us, impossible to understand.

“We only work mainly with pork meat and a bit with beef but we have never worked with horse meat. “

Horse meat is not popular in Poland - in fact people have a similar attitude to it as in the UK.

Only a very few butchers now sell it, although in Communist days it was seen as a cheap way to feed a family.

Now it threatens an industry that has tripled in size in two years. Poland currently exports over 6,000 tonnes of beef to the UK every year.

A butcher working on one of Warsaw’s markets told me of her fury that the industry she has worked in for decades is now being called into question.

“I am definitely angry, “ she said. “It is not true and meat is not modified in our country.“

The meat trade is crucial to Poland’s economy. It is now at the heart of an investigation in three countries – England, Ireland and Poland.

Now all those involved in that trade must wait to see if the other two investigations come to the same conclusions as the Polish one.