The horse meat contamination scandal grossing out Europe and the UK has now reached as many as 16 countries, the BBC reports. Officials continue to investigate the problem and trace the meat involved, but the food industry’s complex supply chains are complicating matters. The AP describes “a maze of trading between meat wholesalers,” making the origins of the meat difficult to trace.
The investigation so far suggests a criminal conspiracy, officials have said—the horse meat did not accidentally end up in so-called beef products, but was intentionally used as a cheaper replacement for beef. Someone involved in the food supply chain benefitted from then selling the cheaper product as beef. “There are people who are out there to defraud, who are looking to cheat,” says one French official; another calls the fraud “abominable” and urges “tough punishments.”