• France's news in English

France promises inquiry into horsemeat scandal

AFP · 11 Feb 2013, 08:34

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had used horsemeat instead of beef in  lasagne, other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President Fran├žois Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available