France, Britain promise punishment in horsemeat scandal

Sat Feb 9, 2013 4:17pm EST
 
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By Leigh Thomas and Tim Castle

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - The French and British governments promised on Saturday to punish those found responsible for selling horsemeat in beef products at the heart of a growing scandal that started in Britain but is quickly spreading to France.

French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said an investigation had found that the horsemeat had originated in Romania, although there were links with French, Dutch and Cypriot firms and a factory in Luxembourg.

British environment minister Owen Paterson said more cases of contaminated food could emerge as British retailers conducted tests for horsemeat on processed beef products. The scandal threatens to affect consumer confidence in Europe's giant food industry, with pressure rising for greater checks.

The British unit of frozen foods group Findus began a recall this week of its beef lasagne from retailers on advice from its French supplier, Comigel, over concerns that some packs contained high levels of horsemeat.

Findus France said it too had recalled lasagne and two other products after discovering that they included horsemeat from Romania rather than beef from France as it had thought.

Hamon said an EU-wide alert had been sent out and that it was not yet clear whether there had been an intentional fraud or the meat had been sold as beef by accident.

"I can assure you that, whether it's a question of negligence or direct responsibility, there will be sanctions," Hamon said on iTele television.

LEGAL COMPLAINT   Continued...

 
A recall notice for frozen meals which had tested positive for horse meat is seen at an Aldi supermarket in northwest London February 9, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett