Horsemeat scandal spreads, French retailers pull foods
By Michael Mainville, AFPPARIS--The Europe-wide scandal over horsemeat sold as beef spread Sunday as leading French retailers pulled products from their shelves and threats of legal action flew.
February 12, 2013, 3:45 am TWN
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Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had used horsemeat instead of beef in lasagna, other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies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 noncompliance 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.