Britain condemns "criminal" horsemeat scandal

Fri Feb 8, 2013 3:36pm EST
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By Mohammed Abbas and Neil Maidment

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government accused unknown criminals for a growing scandal of horsemeat being sold in imported beef products that has generated shock headlines in a country where many recoil in horror at the very idea of eating horses.

Prime Minister David Cameron assured consumers on Friday there was no health risk from a product considered a delicacy in France and Italy. But, as the furor saps public confidence in food labeling and hygiene supervision, he called it "completely unacceptable", and his office condemned "acts of criminality".

Health officials said police had been called in.

Investigations into suppliers have been launched in recent weeks after the discovery that beef products sold to companies including Britain's biggest supermarket firm Tesco and fast-food chain Burger King contained horsemeat.

On Thursday, the scandal deepened further with the news that horsemeat had been found in Findus ready meals made in France, prompting the British government to call it "very distasteful" and forcing the firm to apologize to customers.

Some packs of "beef lasagne" may have contained no beef at all, only horse, officials said after genetic tests showed concentrations of horsemeat in a range from 60 to 100 percent.

"This is a very shocking story," Cameron said in Brussels where he was attending a European Union summit. "It is completely unacceptable.

"People will be very angry to find out that they have been eating horse when they thought they were eating beef."   Continued...

Findus products are display in a store in Edinburgh, Scotland February 8, 2013. REUTERS/David Moir