Human flesh on sale in Moldova

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Meat in Moldova was human flesh, tests yesterday have revealed.

Meat in Moldova was human flesh, tests yesterday have revealed.

Two women were selling the meat outside a butcher's shop in the capital, Chisinau. They were arrested for selling outlawed meat but officials were uncertain, until the tests, that it was human.

A customer reported the women to police on Friday after buying the meat, which they were selling by the bag, interior ministry officials said. The women told police that they acquired the meat from a state cancer clinic in Chisinau, and the authorities immediately launched an investigation.

Police said they did not want to make an official statement on the arrest of the women because they did not want to create public revulsion and panic.

Last month, World Health Organisation officials warned that the practice of selling kidneys and other body parts for cash has become an industry in Moldova. Extreme poverty is tempting more and more Moldovans to sell their organs to so-called "recruiters" acting for agents in western Europe, Turkey and Israel.

Official figures show that Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, is the poorest country in Europe, with an average monthly salary of just $30 (£21). Its economy is based on agriculture, which has recently suffered several blows. The Russian financial crisis of 1998 caused traditional markets for Moldovan produce to collapse. Many of the 4.5 million inhabitants, especially in rural areas, are paid in crops.

A series of droughts left farmers struggling to maintain production in recent years and freezing temperatures towards the end of 2000 ruined crops and led to power shortages, bringing chaos to towns and villages in central and northern Moldova. The country's main exports are foodstuffs, animal and vegetable products and textiles.