Three men were convicted yesterday for fraudulently adding horse meat to beef for human consumption.
Andronicos Sideras, 55, of Southgate, London, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud. Alex Beech, 44 of Sutton on Hull, Humberside, and Ulrik Nielsen, 58 of Gentofte, Denmark, had previously plead guilty for their roles in the same case.
The men conspired to sell horsemeat as beef over a 10-month period in 2012. Theirs are the first convictions over food adulteration since the horse meat scandal came to light in 2013.
Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said: “This guilty verdict is a welcome outcome. It sends a strong message that we will not tolerate fraudulent activity and I hope today’s conviction is a major deterrent to those who think they can profit from duping consumers.”
She added the industry has made great efforts to reduce such activity since the scandal broke.
The convictions followed an investigation by the City of London Police alongside the FSA. The investigation found that in 2012 Nielsen and Beech – owner and UK representative respectively of Danish meat trading company Flexi Foods – were buying horsemeat from Ireland and beef from Poland and delivering it to Tottenham-based company Dino’s and Sons, which was owned by Sideras.
Sideras would oversee the mixing of the two meats and apply false paperwork and labels to disguise the products before selling it on under the guise of pure beef. Mixing horsemeat into the beef like this increased profits on each consignment by about 40%, City of London Police said.
Investigators found emails and documentary evidence that this was done deliberately to increase profits, and that pallet notes had been deliberately altered to pass consignments off as 100% beef. Tests showed they were approximately 30% horse.
The horsemeat scandal broke in 2013 when tests discovered horse DNA in a number of supermarket products both in the UK and across Europe, including burgers and ready meals. The FSA launched its investigation around this time, and a separate review led by professor Chris Elliott warned buyers against purchasing goods at for “less than the recognised reasonable price”.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.