French authorities have charged eight people over their alleged role in a Europe-wide horsemeat trafficking ring dismantled last week, a judicial source said Thursday.
The suspects have been charged with embezzlement, aggravated fraud and other offences in the southern port city of Marseille, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous and gave no details as to their nationality.
The EU's judicial agency Eurojust announced last week that 26 people from seven European countries, including France, Belgium and Britain had been detained as part of a probe into the ring, which is accused of introducing horsemeat unfit for human consumption into the food chain.
The arrests came two years after a major scandal triggered by the discovery that horsemeat was being passed off as beef in burgers and other meat products sold across Europe.
Meatballs, sausages and frozen burgers were pulled from supermarket shelves by the millions over the find.
Eurojust did not say whether there was any connection between the recent arrests and the 2013 horsemeat scandal.
In the latest case, the horses slaughtered for consumption were used for recreation as well as for racing, meaning they could have been injected with antibiotics and other drugs, according to Belgian public television provider RTBF.
Abattoirs in the south of France were used, French and Belgian sources said.
Veterinary services were examining over 200 horses recovered during the police raids.
French authorities estimate that between 2010 and 2013 some 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered for the food trade, Eurojust said.
More than 800 horse passports were seized during last week's searches of dozens of commercial and private premises, along with medication, microchips and computer equipment.