In the United Kingdom (and many other parts of the world), it’s actually not illegal to prepare and sell horse meat despite there being a cultural taboo in many countries. However, it is still illegal to sell horse meat under the pretenses of calling it beef. Three men in Europe are now learning just how much trouble you can get in for selling horse meat and calling it something else.


The three culprits are Ulrik Nielsen, 57, Alex Ostler-Beech, 43 and Andronicos Sideras, 54. The charges first came three years ago when the police in London, England launched an investigation to see how the men were preparing their meat. The Food Standards Agency and Crown Prosecution departments also stepped in to assist with the investigation, and it turned out that the horse meat scam expanded further than first thought.


Many of the major supermarkets in the London area were housing frozen beef made by the men in charge, and horse meat was found to be in the beef. Peter Boddy was an employer that helped prepare the beef, and he was fined several thousand dollars for breaking the law on meat preparation. The head fraud specialist with the Crown Prosecution, Kristin Jones, said that “After carefully considering evidence from the U.K. and overseas, the CPS has decided there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to charge these three men.”

You might think that horse meat would be much more expensive than beef, but that isn’t actually the case. Horse meat happens to be very lean and is typically cheaper than beef. Still, eating horse meat carries a negative connotation that many people can’t get over. However, there has been a growing market for horse meat ever since the scandal originally broke out and restaurants like Burger King or supermarkets like Tesco were found carrying it under the beef title.


The investigation into finding the horse meat was a lot more complicated and thorough that you might imagine. Jones said that the defrauding was their only charge, though, and that the crime was selling “goods that contained, wholly or in part, a mixture of beef and horse meat, by dishonestly arranging for beef and horse meat to be combined for sale as beef.”


With a trial still to come, the men will have to either explain why they are innocent of the situation (which won’t be easy after the long investigation) or explain why they defrauded so many people. While most of the beef products contained a low amount of horse meat, some of the beef lasagna that was being distributed contained up to 100 percent horse meat.

If the three men are convicted for their crimes, there’s not much in the way of prison time that they will be facing. It would most likely be a couple of months at most, but they will probably be looking at a large fine if found guilty. Either way it will end up being a costly mistake.