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HORSEMEAT

Horse drug enters food chain in France: UK

A potentially harmful horse drug has entered the human food chain in France, a UK minister said on Thursday. Elsewhere doubts have been raised over French company Spanghero's denials they knowingly bought horsemeat.

Horse drug enters food chain in France: UK

An equine drug that is potentially harmful to humans has entered the human food chain in France via three horse carcasses exported from Britain, British agriculture minister David Heath said on Thursday.

But Heath said the drug phenylbutazone, which can cause a serious blood disorder in humans in rare cases, had not been found in tests on products made by food giant Findus, which is embroiled in a Europe-wide horsemeat scandal.

Elsewhere on Thursday French company Spanghero was billed for 42 tonnes of horsemeat, a French newspaper reported. The news casts doubt on the company's claim to have never knowingly bought or sold the meat at the centre of a Europe-wide scandal.

French daily Le Parisien published a bill dated January 4 that was made out to Spanghero and printed on the headed paper of Draap Trading, the Dutch-run, Cyprus-based intermediary which sourced meat in Romania for Spanghero.

The bill contains the numbers 0205 0080, which the paper said was an international code for frozen horsemeat. Spanghero did not immediately respond to AFP's request for an explanation of the bill.

Le Parisien said Romanian authorities had shown it three similar bills. In total, the bills add up to orders for 42 tonnes of minced offcuts  the fat, tendons and other pieces left over after the horse has been deboned and the prime cuts removed.

Romanian officials have been angered by what they see as an attempt by the French companies involved in the scandal to point the finger of blame at their abattoirs.

They insist horsemeat leaving their slaughterhouses would have been clearly labelled as such and that the fraud must have occurred further along the food chain.

Spanghero said in a statement earlier this week that it did not "sell, re-sell or process horsemeat in any form." In a statement to Le Parisien, the company denied receiving any bill for horsemeat from Draap Trading.

The horsemeat Spanghero received was passed on to another French company, Comigel, which was responsible for using it in frozen ready meals which were labelled as 100 percent beef.

Comigel insists it could not have known the meat it was using was horsemeat and that it alerted authorities immediately once it knew there was a problem.

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CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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