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World's biggest food firms embroiled in Europe horsemeat scandal

PARIS -- The world's biggest food company, Swiss-based Nestle, and the world's top beef producer, JBS of Brazil, were Tuesday the latest in a long list of firms to be caught up in Europe's spiraling horsemeat scandal.

Their involvement in the fast-moving drama marked another milestone in a scandal that has seen supermarket chains across Europe pull from their shelves millions of “beef” products that are thought to contain horsemeat.

Nestle announced it was removing two ready-to-eat meals — beef ravioli and beef tortellini — from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain after tests found traces of horse DNA in the products.

A Nestle frozen lasagna product made for the catering business was also being withdrawn from sale in France and Portugal because traces of horsemeat were found in them.

The firm insisted there was no food safety issue but said the tainted products breached the one percent threshold the British Food Safety Agency uses to indicate likely adulteration or gross negligence.

The horse DNA was found in products made with meat supplied by German firm H.J. Schypke, Nestle said in a statement late Monday.

Britain's House of Commons on Tuesday withdrew four beef products from its canteen menus as tests were carried out for traces of horsemeat, a spokesman said.

The move to test the “meat derivative” items was taken as a “precaution” he said.

Nestle issued a statement Tuesday saying that all tests on processed beef products sold by the multinational giant in Britain and Ireland had come back negative.

JBS of Brazil, which used H.J. Schypke as a subcontractor, meanwhile said in a statement that it would stop buying European meat “until confidence is restored in the European beef supply chain.”

It sought to distance itself from the scandal, saying Schypke was “not in any way part of the JBS Group” and adding that “no case of co-mingling of species has been identified in products produced in or at JBS factories.”

Schypke on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing.

“We buy all raw materials already chopped up, fresh or frozen, from certified suppliers ... We would like to point out expressly that H.J. Schypke has at no time purchased horsemeat,” it said.

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