• 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

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Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had used horsemeat instead of beef in  lasagne, other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies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

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France and Germany to draw up growth plan
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) and French Finance Minister Michel Sapin address a joint press conference in Berlin. Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

France and Germany to draw up growth plan

Although France didn't persuade Germany to invest €50 billion in the eurozone's flagging economy Paris and Berlin did agree to draw up an action plan for exactly what was needed to boost growth. READ  

Burglar caught sipping bubbly during break-in
A burglar in France popped the champagne cork too early and ended up being caught red handed. Photo: Shutterstock

Burglar caught sipping bubbly during break-in

A burglar in France was so happy after breaking into a house in France he decided to crack open the bubbly and turn on the TV. But then the owners returned home. READ  

Total's French CEO killed in Moscow plane cash
Total CEO Christophe de Margerie shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photo: Ria Novosti/AFP

Total's French CEO killed in Moscow plane cash

The CEO of French oil company Total, Christophe de Margerie died in a plane crash at a Moscow airport after his private jet struck a snow plough on takeoff. Russian investigators said the driver of the snow plough was drunk. READ  

Calais police fire tear gas as migrants storm trucks
Police in Calais fired tear gas on Monday when hundreds of migrants tried to storm trucks. File Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Calais police fire tear gas as migrants storm trucks

French police on Monday fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants trying to force their way onto trucks in the northern port of Calais in a desperate bid to reach Britain. READ  

Clown panic in France: Fake joker given jail term
A fake clown was handed a suspended jail term on Friday after threatening people in northern France. Photo: Shutterstock

Clown panic in France: Fake joker given jail term

The party is over for a fake clown who received a six-month suspended jail term Monday for threatening passers-by while in full circus garb, a disturbing trend terrifying towns in northern France. READ  

France launches fresh strikes against IS in Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position at a frontline in Yangije in September. Photo: JM Lopez/AFP

France launches fresh strikes against IS in Iraq

French fighter jets have carried out a third round of air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in support of Iraqi ground forces, the defence ministry said on Monday. READ  

French GPs urged to strike over Christmas
Don't be ill over Christmas in France. Stethoscope photo: Shutterstock

French GPs urged to strike over Christmas

You might have more reason than ever not to fall sick over Christmas if you're in France this year. GPs are being urged by unions to shut up their surgeries over the Christmas period in protest against a new government health bill. READ  

IN IMAGES
'Glass ship' Vuitton museum opens in Paris
The Louis Vuitton art museum, which takes the form of a sailboat amongst the trees of the Bois de Boulogne, consists of twelve huge sails in glass. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

'Glass ship' Vuitton museum opens in Paris

Emerging from the woods at the edge of Paris like a glass ship, the hyper-modern Louis Vuitton art museum will be inaugurated on Monday, kicking off an art-filled week in the French capital. READ  

A Made in France 'Halal test' to check for pork
In a similar style to a pregnancy test, the test consists of a strip which the consumer must put into a glass of warm water containing a sample of food. Photo: halaltest.fr

A Made in France 'Halal test' to check for pork

A French company has developed a so-called “Halal test” which will allow Muslim consumers to detect, within a matter minutes, the presence of pork or alcohol in food. READ  

Paris traffic jams will become world's costliest
Traffic jams in Paris are set to become the costliest in the world, according to one survey. Photo: AFP

Paris traffic jams will become world's costliest

Anyone who has ever been for a drive through Paris will know exactly what it's like to get stuck in a traffic jam, but it's not just time they are wasting, it's money too, and lots of it. And things are about to get a lot worse. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
National
Top French chefs want banned bird on menu
National
VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

655
jobs available