Many will recall that Britain was hit by a rather gross horse-meat scandal in 2013. Frozen hamburgers and even Taco Bell tacos and Ikea meatballs weren’t safe — and people got news that they’d maybe enjoyed as much as 29 percent horse in their beef. By the end, things sure seemed like they couldn’t get worse, but they finally may have: Chris Elliott, the U.K.’s horse-meat czar back then, says as many as 50,000 horses belonged to regular British folks, and they were sold to criminal gangs for a few bucks during the economic crisis.
There’s no way of knowing where, exactly, a horse went once on the black market, but according to The Telegraph, Elliott said at a recent conference that it’s likely the meat went into things like Whoppers and ready-made lasagna, adding, “The idea that 50,000 horses could just disappear may seem incredible to some, but the scale at which some of these gangs can operate is huge.”
The news must be newly horrifying to anyone whose neighbors suddenly “lost” their beloved Mister Ed, though Elliott commends the British government for moves like creating a food-crime unit in the wake of the scandal. But he and other experts warn that fraud’s getting “increasingly sophisticated” these days.