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Horsegate- How it was and where did it go

Autor: Ilie Stoiansâmbătă, 13 iulie, 2013

Started with a news almost trivial appeared in the British press, horse meat scandal, „Horsegate”, as it was later named, would have brought down the whole meat sector in Europe. DNA tests imposed by the European Commission for meat products revealed serious deficiencies in most countries, deficiencies which have proven to be ilegally. In some countries, were arrests and cases of prosecutors. Neither Romania was not spared.

In the UK, the Irish horse was neighing since last summer!

Perhaps some do not know some history that deserves to be made ​​public. The first warning transmitted through the Rapid Alert System related to replacing beef with horse meat, were not sent at the end of January 2013, but since last summer. Then, the fault was thrown to several Irish suppliers that brought on the UK market horse meat and products in which it was present, although the label was listed as beef. Along with Ireland, Poland was to be nominated again in 2012, no less than seven times as supplier of horse meat labeled incorrectly on the Western market. And this would make Mihai Visan, the Executive Director of the Romanian Meat Association, to ask rightly and almost rhetorically, in a context which we will detail below: „Why was this scandal started now with Romania in the center of allegations, and not last summer!? ”

Why, yes, why not, now it matters only regarding the news from DCNews which was speaking about data gathered by information services in Romania related to the involvement of multinationals and some compatriots in stirring, enhancing and maintaining the scandal throughout the industry food. And if this information will prove to be true, then we are wrong if we think about ilegall cases that should be accused „undermining the national economy”, or whatever it is called in the Penal Code!

However, in January, the British press reported that lasagna produced by Spaghero and Comigel contained horse meat labeled as beef. But instead to point to the two producers, they accused directly two suppliers from Romania, CARMOLIMP and Doly-Com.

The „Snowball effect”

In Romania, the surprise was total, but misinformation snowball started. British press babbling continously. Neither French press was slowing down, accusing Romania of all the evils of the world. And, if we think that these accusations came amid media campaign in England against migration of Romanians in the Kingdom, if you count the French media campaigns about Gypsy beggars in Paris, if we add the debated wheater accepting or not Romania on Schengen, and the paintings of hundreds million euros stolen in the Netherlands, we believe that no other land could be more conducive to manipulate Western public opinion, Romanians were guilty for free.

For days, British tabloids published news quite scandalous, the champions were the pseudo-journalists at the Daily Mirror, The Independent but especially those from The Sun, which came to say: „The horses from Romania are infected with AIDS!” True enough, but television channel Sky News sent a team of journalists who have passed the first real news: Romanian companies respected national and European legislation. The news was reinforced by another team of journalists from the Daily Mail.

However, the complaints continued: Greeks announced as fools, that beef products from Athena were containing horse meat from Romania and Germany, as a good „friend” , accussed Galli Gallo that last summer would be sent to them turkeys with antibiotics. Previously, Horsegate was to determine the decision that, at the EU level, meat products to be DNA tested, a decision that Romanian National Sanitary Veterinay Authority (ANSVSA) had to implement immediately. Since then, to some local angels began to grow a couple of horns!

For the export, everything was ok

Fortunately, the authorities in Bucharest reacted promptly. Less than a few days after the onset of the scandal, Minister of Agriculture, Daniel Constantin, went to Brussels, where he began to clarify the situation in dialogues with Dacian Ciolos, Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and his counterparts from France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands , Poland and the UK. Meanwhile, ANSVSA was able to provide irrefutable proof of the correctness of Romanian processors relating to export relations, and the two Romanian companies involved in the scandal unfounded, ie, Doly-Com and CARMOLIMP, gave everyone wanted to see, undeniable unguilty prooves.

As a result, finally accusations against Romania almost ceased. French ambassador himself, E.S. Philippe Gustin, had to have a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture from Romania (MADR) with Daniel Constantin, the French adopting an attitude of „Forgive me,” well disguised in diplomatic language. Neither the German’s accusations for Galli Gallo proved not to be valid, and concerning the Greeks, they remained speeachless everytime when ANSVSA or MADR have requested specific data to investigate possible guilt of any company from Romania.

With an overview of the situation, the Romanian Minister of Agriculture would declare: „Internationally, we can speak of a real mafia branch.” Not wrong. If, in Romania, the horse meat left labeled correctly, on the chain of intermediaries or processors from Cyprus, Poland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France appear erroneous labeling fraud in order to gain more from the difference in price.

And the fraud was discovered, finally, to Spaghero, company that French authorities withdrew the operating license, and then they reinstated it after two weeks, for that after another two, to be noted another fraud in relation to a quantity of 57 tonnes of sheep meat imported from Holland, as a sign of the means the meat industry works from Hexagon! As concerns the British, they have calmed down too, after they made several arrests among some owners of slaughterhouses. But fraud cases were done in Romania too.

Ancestral picking up

When everything seemed to calm down, the domestic market being only slightly affected,  the ANSVSA inspectors showed that even some internal operators like „pinching” from here to there. The first ones enter in the dance sin were those from Adi Salve company from Blaj, in fact, a meat storage which sent to Bucharest meat horse meat labeled as beef. In the first instance, among providers of Blaj storage was nominated and the slaughterhouse of Florin Turcanu, Mihai Turcanu’s father, the president of  ANSVSA fro that period. Although not confirmed that the slaughterhouse in question would have provided horse meat as beef, the information has not escaped from German television ARD which has conducted an investigation in which Florin Turcanu managed to embarrass himself and he revealed ins and outs of horse slaughter in Romania and in conjunction with other issues, led to the „resignation” of Mihai Ţurcanu. To the storage from Blaj was taken the operating authorization and, as stated at the end of March, by the new President of ANSVSA, Vladimir Manastireanu, a penal case was going to be for the owner.

Over some time, a new story: Nicolim company in Ploiesti, whose owner had his wife employed at DSVSA-Prahova, delivered on the market thousands of minced meat labeled as beef, though made ​​of horse meat!

A special note was done by Orkla Foods, the one that played properly, withdrawing from Metro network several thousands of canned „beef” which was suspected of horse meat. At the time of the facts, Mrs. Claudia Cojocaru, the director of Ardealul company, said to the public: „To produce these cans, we used beef supplied by SC Optimeat Ltd with analysis card, Declaration of Conformity and documents certifying the origin of raw materials, documents that were made ​​available to the competent authorities (…)We note that the product is safe for consumption, but we are ready to return the value to all consumers who bought beef canned products from Ardealul, from the specific bunches. ”

Where did it go to

Externally, the effects were brutal. Alexander Jurconi the new ARC spokesman said for Agerpres that „exports of beef and horse meat in Romania collapsed!” It’s no wonder.

Internally, the three cases above, plus the German television investigation, in conjunction with long negative campaign supported by Antena 1 and Intact publications on the subject of quality meat product together with the many alarmist news of general press and especially with the investigation made by Pro TV broadcasted during the program „Romania I love you”, which revealed the ins and outs of  ‘traditional’ products processing, which had led to the drastical drecrease of sales. In desperation, some of the major retailers such as Kaufland, switched to wide campaign to reduce prices for meat and meat products. That’s not surprising too.

But the implications are more profound. According to Rogalski Grigoriu Public Relations Agency, which conducted a survey published by Capital, one of two Romanian did not trust the origin of meat purchased, changing their choices related to meat consumption. 14.26% of respondents said they bought more chicken from known producers. The subject of horse meat labeled as beef was known for over 96% of consumers, and 9 out of 10 have discussed the subject with someone in their world (family, friends or colleagues), this result describing recent scandal as one of the most viral social issues in the last 12 months.

Fabrica de Carne Magazine, supporting the Romanian producers and processors

Fully realizing the seriousness of the facts, Fabrica de Carne magazine actively sought to support Romanian producers and processors of meat sector. Thus, in March, our editorial staff got in touch with one of the most important specialized publications in the French press, Process Alimentaire, hosting a delegation of journalists who came to Romania to make a comprehensive documentary about domestic industry profile but also about Horsegate. At the end of the visit, in a preliminary note, signed by Benoit Hamon, Process Alimentaire headlined: „CARMOLIMP and Doly-Com companies fully comply with EU legislation and standards, and this statement can not be questioned! ”

However, the journalist Anne-Katella Moussete from the same publication, received from the editorial team of Fabrica de Carne statistical data related to the development of industry and meat processing in Romania, facilitating documenting contacts with Vladimir Manastireanu and Mihai Visan, who presented to her once again evidence of the correctness of Romanian producers and processors in international trade relations. At that meeting Mihai Visan put himself the rhetorical question at the beginning of this article. Unfortunately, although public opinion in France understood the innocence of Romanians, Hexagon consumers accept only products made from meat from French farmers. While such responsible behavior in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space?

Romanian latter thinking

That externally, Romania was unwittingly involved in a war of markets can not be disputed. Of course there is the black market too (Daniel Constantin announced that the meat sector has a level of evasion of about 300 million euros!), there are also isolated cases of slippage but overall, in Romania, the law is respected strictly, and the factories and slaughterhouses are equipped with the latest technology and the food is safe for consumption.

Everything is that the world be let know that! But it can do than only by applying a policy of transparency, from the producers and processors, in relation to public opinion and continuously supporting image campaigns. Mere occasional advertising actions are not enough. Image of a company builds every day. A simple press release is not far enough! This is reality! The solving gives a witticism that every business owner or manager should learn and adapt to their needs, „Coca Cola is made of 1% water and 1% sucrose, 1% color and 97% advertising”!

Our opinion is confirmed indirectly by the same Alexandru Jurconi, who said at a round table: „It is essential that any construction of communication to show the good things we do in our factories. To lift the veil of mystery. People are asking legitimate questions: What is beyond the factory?, What happens in factory laboratories? What products are they buying ? We need for people to know us better. ”

Externally, however, things get complicated. Picture of an industry is the responsibility of professional organizations (by the way, we know that European funds for export promotion, as it have happened to them?), to MADR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Romania’s trade missions.

The conclusion can only be this: We know to grow animals, to do sausages and salami, let us learn to build a positive image too!

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