EU horse meat scandal deepens

Reported by AAP
Sunday, February 10, 2013

Currency Converter

Mark BourisMyths bustedHome loans can seem a bit complicated and overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be. Mark Bouris clears up some common misconceptions.

A Europe-wide food fraud scandal is deepening as suspicions of criminal involvement mount and the exact origin of horsemeat sold as beef in frozen dishes remains a mystery.

The French meat-processing company at the centre of the scandal says it will sue a Romanian supplier it claims mislabelled the horsemeat that has been found in shops in at least three countries.

But the company, Spanghero, has refused to identify the Romanian supplier or any intermediaries involved in the supply chain, and failed to offer any explanation as to why it allegedly resold the meat as 100 per cent French beef.

Swedish frozen foods giant Findus initiated legal proceedings in France on Saturday against persons unknown.

In London, Findus revealed products ostensibly containing beef but actually made predominately with horsemeat could have been on sale in Britain since August 2012.

Although horsemeat is eaten in many parts of Europe and is considered leaner and healthier than beef, food safety experts fear some unregulated meat could contain traces of a widely-used veterinary pain killer that is dangerous to humans.

Britain was examining whether the scandal was the result of a criminal conspiracy and a serious fraud investigation was under way in France.

"We have a real problem," said British Food Minister Owen Paterson. "There are very significant amounts of horsemeat in products marked as processed beef. That is totally unacceptable."

He added: "It may be incompetence; I fear it's actually probably an international criminal conspiracy and I'm completely determined to get to the bottom of it."

Findus UK said it was taking legal advice after early results from its internal investigation "strongly suggest" that the presence of horsemeat in its frozen beef lasagne meals was "not accidental".

France's agriculture minister warned that companies found to have knowingly misled consumers would be "severely punished".

Cogimel, the French company which assembled the frozen lasagne, meat sauces and other dishes involved, apologised to its customers, who include Findus, supermarket Aldi and other major retailers of frozen food in 16 European countries.

"We are aware of the very strong feelings this has given rise to, particularly in Britain," the company's chairman, Erich Lehagre, told AFP.

Comigel products have been removed from the shelves in Britain, France and Sweden.

Comigel has 5,000 farm suppliers and turnover in excess of one billion euros ($A1.3 billion), having grown quickly in recent years by diversifying into food processing.

02/08/2014 10:23Sydney, Australia. 2 August,2014
advertisement