Horse Meat Scandal: France And Spain Shrug Over Equine Contamination Cases While Italy Rages

More than a month after equine DNA blighted burgers in British and Irish supermarkets, the horse meat scandal has now hit the continent.

Nestlé has pulled beef pasta products from sale in Italy, France and Spain after tests revealed traces of horse.

In Britain, horse meat revelations sent shockwaves galloping across our green and pleasant land as politicians expressed their 'anger', 'disgust' and 'outrage' over the spaghetti bolognese.

As joke writers reached for their quills, the internet fired into action, working with memes, photoshopped ready meal packets and an unbridled supply of nag gags raced across social media.

The incident has dominated headlines, (a rogue horse joke even slipped into PMQs) and everyone has a much clearer idea of who Owen Paterson is, as well as how many horse idioms the English language contains. A tiresome amount.

But have the revelations been as big news for our European cousins?

Stanislas Kraland, a journalist at La Huffington Post in France, said the reaction to the news was "fierce", but focussed in a different direction. The French wolf down horse meat already, so the idea of eating nags was not so repellent in itself.

He told Huff Post UK: "The French don't care about eating horses, we like to ride 'em, we like to bet on 'em, we like to eat 'em. What worries us is that there's no control over the food chain. "

Kraland said for many people the real impact was reflected in the potential loss of jobs that could accompany the horse meat scandal: "Employment is the number one target for the government," he added.

Spanghero, the French meat-processing firm accused of knowingly labelling horsemeat as beef, was at risk of losing its licence and with it hundreds of jobs, until Sunday, when it was announced the government would renew its ability to trade.

People campaigning on behalf of Spanghero over the weekend

Unemployment is at record levels in France and President Hollande is under pressure to rejuvenate the job market, saying that 2013 is the year of 'the great battle for jobs’.

A trend for vegetarianism is also gathering pace in the wake of the scandal, said Kraland.

"Journalist Aymeric Caron published a book entitled No Steak which received a lot of coverage. This is new in French society and is part of a cultural shift, but is also good timing too."

Spain is also less concerned by the horse meat scandal than the UK. Vanesa Rodriguez at El Huffington Post in Spain, said: "At the moment we're dealing with huge problems in Spain, for example corruption and the economic crisis.

"I think that there are different perceptions of horse meat in Spain. For us it's only a labelling problem for now. In the past it was considered a delicacy so we haven't a problem eating it at all. It might just be too early.

"Guillermo Rodriguez, our [Huff Post Spain’s] deputy director, was just saying earlier that he ate pony horse meat the other day! He said it was delicious and added that the chef said everybody is asking for it!"

As the horse meat scandal galloped into Italy, some on social media said they were worried for Italian cuisine if people in the gourmand's mecca were snuffling ready made pasta from microwave troughs.

Indeed, Giulia Belardelli, journalist at L'Huffington Post in Italy said the horse meat scandal is gaining pace as consumers grow angry at Nestlé for butchering traditional Italian dishes.

She told Huff Post UK "The two products that have been withdrawn from sale in Italy are 'ravioli' and 'tortellini', two traditional pasta dishes. Consumers are bothered by the fact that the company was not transparent while using a symbolic dish of Italian cookery.

Environmentalist group Legambiente has described the scandal as “an intolerable food fraud” that requires higher standards on controls and traceability.

Belardelli said health concerns have also been raised. She quotes nutritionist Giorgio Calabrese, Professor of Human Nutrition at the Catholic University in Piacenza, who said horsemeat can sometimes contain drugs harmful for humans’ health.

“Horsemeat in itself is not bad for health”, explained Calabrese. “The problem rises with animals that are not controlled, like old racehorses retired from race and sent to slaughterhouse”.

It seems although horse meat is eaten in Italy (and is even put in baby food) there is considerable anger over the scandal. Italians are known for caring about their food, after all.

Check out how the UK responded to the horse meat scandal below.

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