British horsemeat scandal police arrest pair

British police investigating a scandal that saw horsemeat enter the human food chain across Europe said Thursday they had arrested two men on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

City of London Police, who launched their inquiry in May, said they had arrested two men but did not disclose the fact until now due to "operational reasons".

The force, which takes the national policing lead on fraud, said the men were arrested in Britain in the initial stages of the inquiry but did not give their nationalities. The pair have been bailed.

"Additionally, a number of search warrants were executed at business and home addresses throughout the UK," it said in a statement.

The scandal started in January, when beefburgers sold in several British and Irish supermarket chains were found to contain horsemeat, before spreading to more than a dozen other countries.

"This is an extremely complex investigation covering a number of jurisdictions and a variety of businesses," said Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw, from the City of London Police.

"We are working closely with police forces, other law enforcement agencies and regulators to determine whether horsemeat being used in a range of meat products was a deliberate and coordinated criminal activity."

In February, British police arrested three men at meat plants suspected of passing off horsemeat mislabelled as beef.

Since the horsemeat scandal erupted, governments have scrambled to figure out how and where the mislabelling of meat happened in the sprawling chain of production spanning abattoirs and meat suppliers across Europe.

The scandal prompted the European Commission to order tests of food across the European Union which showed that almost one in 20 meals marketed as beef was likely to be tainted with horse.

Last month, British lawmakers condemned the slow pace of the investigation, with no prosecutions so far in the kingdom.