• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

France promises inquiry into horsemeat scandal

AFP · 11 Feb 2013, 08:34

Published: 11 Feb 2013 08:34 GMT+01:00

France promised the results of an urgent inquiry into the scandal within days and the government announced crisis talks with meat industry representatives for Monday night.

As Britain dismissed calls for a ban on EU meat, producers and distributors insisted they had been deceived about the true nature of the meat and vowed to take legal action.

Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had used horsemeat instead of beef in  lasagne, other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies and moussaka dishes.

Reflecting the complexity of European food supply chains, the meat has been traced from France through Cyprus and The Netherlands to Romanian abattoirs.

Officials in Bucharest announced an urgent inquiry on Saturday. On Sunday, President Traian Basescu said he feared his country "would be discredited for many years" if a Romanian meat supplier was found to be at fault.

French retailers Auchan, Casino, Carrefour, Cora, Monoprix and Picard announced Sunday they were withdrawing products provided by frozen food giant Findus and French producer Comigel over the horsemeat concerns.

The retailers said the withdrawal was the result of "labeling non-compliance in regards to the nature of the meat" in the products.

French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said officials would have the preliminary results of their inquiry into the scandal by Wednesday. France "will not hesitate" to take legal action if there is evidence that companies had knowingly duped consumers, he added.

His ministry said Hamon and other senior officials would meet with "all players in the industry" for crisis talks on the scandal on Monday.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also made it clear someone would have to pay for what he described as a "abominable and disgusting" affair. "There are clearly people involved making a profit... there need to be tough sanctions." he told France's BFMTV television.

Findus has said it will file a legal complaint in France after evidence showed the presence of horsemeat in its supply chain "was not accidental". Its Nordic branch said Sunday it planned to sue Comigel and its suppliers.

"This is a breach of contract and fraud," said the head of Findus Nordic, Jari Latvanen. "Such behaviour on the part of a supplier is unacceptable." 

Comigel head Erick Lehagre told AFP the company had been fooled by its suppliers and vowed to seek compensation. "We were victims and it's now clear that the problem was not with Findus nor with Comigel," he said.  "This represents a very heavy loss for us and we will seek compensation."

In Britain, tests have found that some frozen ready meals produced in mainland Europe and labelled as processed beef actually contained up to 100 percent horsemeat.

But Food Minister Owen Paterson dismissed calls for a ban on EU meat imports, describing the idea as a "panic measure". "Arbitrary measures like that are not actually going to help. Firstly we are bound by the rules of the European market," he told Sky News television.

But he added: "Should this move from an issue of labelling and fraud and there is evidence of material which represents a serious threat to human health, I won't hesitate to take action."

Story continues below…

Anne McIntosh, the head of the British parliament's food affairs scrutiny panel, had called for the ban. A moratorium was needed until "we can trace the source of the contamination and until we can establish whether there has been fraud", she argued.

The scandal has had particular resonance in Britain, where eating horsemeat is considered taboo. British authorities have also said they are testing to see whether the horsemeat contains a veterinary drug that can be dangerous to humans.

The Findus meals were assembled by Comigel using meat that was provided by Spanghero, a meat-processing company also based in France. Comigel supplies products to companies in 16 countries.

Spanghero in turn is said to have obtained the meat from Romania via a Cypriot dealer who had subcontracted the deal to a trader in The Netherlands.

A Romanian food industry official pointed the finger of blame at the French importer, saying it was up to that company to verify the meat.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France's top court suspends burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court has suspended a town's ban on wearing the full-body burqini swimsuit.

Milk price raised, but French farmers still unhappy
The sign on the tractor reads 'We're dying', as farmers blocked Lactalis dairy headquarters. Photo: AFP

Milk prices have been raised by France's biggest dairy group to placate farmers, but unions say their demands have not been met.

Burqini bans 'dividing France's Muslim women'
Photo: AFP

The burqini bans have divided France, but they have also left Muslim women in France in two groups, argues a professor who has spent years studying the impact of the burqa.

Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Corsica bushfire leaves 500 hectares scorched
Photos: AFP

A massive fire left 500 hectares of bushland in Corsica ravaged.

View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,751
jobs available