• France edition
 
France promises inquiry into horsemeat scandal
A 'pure beef' Findus lasagne. Photo: The Local

France promises inquiry into horsemeat scandal

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

The Europe-wide scandal over horsemeat sold as beef has spread, as leading French retailers pulled products from their shelves and threats of legal action flew.

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Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had used horsemeat instead of beef in  lasagne, other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies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

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.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Burgundy 'will be ruined by wind farms'
Will Burgundy's worldwide reputation suffer because of windfarms? Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Burgundy 'will be ruined by wind farms'

The famous Burgundy region of France is synonymous with its vineyards but its image will soon be ruined, campaigners say, by the planned construction of new wind turbines. They say their chances of gaining UNESCO world heritage status are threatened. READ () »

VIDEO: Inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats
Here is a video look inside Paris's first-ever hotel just for cats. Photo: Lisa Winderberg/Flickr

VIDEO: Inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats

It was only a matter of time before the world’s most visited city extended its luxury lodging options to pets as well. Here's a look inside Paris’s first ever hotel just for cats, which naturally comes complete with a "gourmet" food menu and a games room. READ () »

French government's austerity denial 'a joke'
Some €50 billion cuts and freezes in benefits are not austerity, the French government says. That's a joke, say analysts. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP

French government's austerity denial 'a joke'

After announcing a raft of spending cuts and benefits freezes this week the French government was at pains to stress that the country was not undergoing “austerity” as it faces a rebellion among its ranks. Analysts dismissed ministers' efforts as "a joke". READ () »

UK, US directors make cut for Cannes festival
British and American directors have been selected to show their films in Cannes. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

UK, US directors make cut for Cannes festival

Cannes film festival organizers unveiled on Thursday the A-listers and art house "auteurs" chosen to take part in this year's movie extravaganza on the French Riviera and it includes several well known Brits and Americans. READ () »

'Tarantula trafficker' snared in huge bug bust
French 'tarantula trafficker' caught with thousands of spiders. Photo: Ben Sutherland/Flickr

'Tarantula trafficker' snared in huge bug bust

In one of France’s biggest bug busts ever, a man was caught with thousands of living and dead tarantulas as well as other exotic insects he sold on the black market, media reports said on Thursday. READ () »

Euro wide hunt for teen girl and 'suicidal' prof
Police across Europre are involved in the hunt for suicidal teacher and teen French girl

Euro wide hunt for teen girl and 'suicidal' prof

Police across Europe are trying to track down a 15-year-old French girl who disappeared a week ago with her guitar teacher, a much older family friend thought to be in a suicidal state. READ () »

Pupils 'taught abortion is murder' at French school
French pupils claims they were taught 'abortion is murder' at school. Photo: Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

Pupils 'taught abortion is murder' at French school

A private religious school in Paris is under investigation from national education officials after students alleged they’d been told in class that 'abortion is in akin to murder'. The private school has ties to the controversial fundamentalist group Opus Dei. READ () »

Australian 'graffiti tourists' arrested in Paris
File Photo of a typically graffiti covered Paris Metro. Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Australian 'graffiti tourists' arrested in Paris

Two Australian tourists who had left their mark on the City of Light with a few cans of spray paint, were picked up by French police this week. It appears the pair of graffiti vandals were on an InterRail trip and planned to “tag the whole of Europe” READ () »

French football
French cup final will be all-Breton affair
Guingamp players celebrate after their victory over Monaco on Wednesday which sets up an all Breton French cup final against Rennes. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

French cup final will be all-Breton affair

The French cup final will be an all-Breton affair after underdogs Guingamp produced a major upset by knocking out big spenders Monaco in their semi final tie on Wednesday night. Guingamp will now play fellow Brittany side Rennes in May's final. READ () »

Listeria prompts smoked salmon recall in France
Listeria contamination prompts seafood recall. Photo: Screengrab/Fjord King

Listeria prompts smoked salmon recall in France

A French seafood company recalled on Wednesday three batches of smoked salmon because they were contaminated with the dangerous bacteria listeria, which can cause a serious infection in pregnant women and older people. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
VIDEO: Take a look inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats
Education
French parents are the most laidback about their kids' education. True?
Tech
What do French TV viewers complain about the most? Yes it's English
Business & Money
French tax declarations: The key points to remember
Gallery
French slang: Everyday words you need to know (but use cautiously)
National
Paris cops told to ‘purge’ Roma from posh neighbourhood
International
VIDEO: ‘Anti-French’ Cadillac ad sparks anger in France. See why.
Features
Buying property in France? Here's 10 things you need to think about
National
What will the future map of France look like? The answer lies within.
Politics
'The 27 French regions aren't the problem, it's the 36,000 towns'
Culture
Ex underage call girl Zahia picked to embody Marie Antoinette
Gallery
Buying a house in France? Ten things you need to think about
Advertisement:
National
France bans work emails after 6pm! Sadly it's not quite true.
Opinion
Reader Rants: Why don't the French do charity? Is it down to taxes?
Society
VIDEO: The Paris zoo is back but this time the animals are in charge
National
This will be the most expensive road in France - Only €1.66bn for 12km!
Society
Only in France? Gourmet pensioners party lands village in hot water
National
What's the worst thing to do when you realise you're on the wrong train?
From showers to kissing: Anglos tell Twitter what's weird about France
National
'A big quake will hit France and there will be casualties' - Scientist warns
Culture
After all the dozens of books is France still worth writing about?
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Opinion
Paris or the suburbs - where would you live?
National
VIDEO: Walk the line - crossing the Seine on a tightrope
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se