Horse Meat Scandal Widens to 16 Countries As officials struggle to trace contaminated meat By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Feb 11, 2013 11:39 AM CST 50 comments Comments Beef burgers purchased in Ireland are shown, following an outcry over the revelation that some burgers made in the republic and on sale in British supermarkets contain a large proportion of horse meat. (AP Photo/Niall Carson/PA) (Newser) – 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."