France Says Spanghero Suspected in Swapping Horse-Meat Labels

Spanghero SAS, a French meat-processing company, received at least 750 tons of meat coded as horse that left its facility labeled as European Union beef, France’s government said.

Comigel, which produced several of the prepared meals including beef lasagne and spaghetti Bolognese that were later found to contain horse, got meat from Spanghero that was labeled as EU beef, Benoit Hamon, junior minister for consumer affairs, told reporters in Paris today.

“Once the meat was unpacked and unfrozen, Comigel could have questioned the fact that the color and smell of the meat was not that of beef,” Hamon said. Also, fresh meat in the European Union must indicate the country of origin, he said.

Spanghero didn’t knowingly order or resell horse meat, a spokesman for the Castelnaudry, France-based company said. He declined to give his name.

Supermarkets in the U.K., Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Germany have pulled tainted frozen beef burgers and lasagnas from shelves in the past month. EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg told reporters after a meeting of European ministers in Brussels yesterday that criminal investigations will be coordinated by Europol.

France will hand the information on Spanghero to prosecutors who will determine if charges will be filed, Hamon said. “It’s either a major case of absent-mindedness or a massive deceit,” he said. “It’s very possible that complicity exists on a European level.”

U.K. Arrests

U.K. police investigating allegations that horsemeat was mislabelled as beef have arrested three men, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing Dyfed-Powys Police.

EU nations should test thousands of processed beef products for horse meat to establish the scale of the labeling scandal and analyze slaughtered horses for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, the EU said yesterday.

The U.K. Food Standards Agency will announce the results of industry tests on beef products for the presence of horse meat tomorrow. The FSA said today that no bute was found in Findus products withdrawn after horse meat was detected.

Six slaughtered horses that tested positive for bute may have entered the food chain in France, the agency said. The drug poses a very low risk to human health, the U.K. chief medical officer said in a statement. A person would have to eat 500 to 600 burgers of pure tainted horse meat a day to consume close to a human’s daily dose.

Three horse carcasses contaminated with bute entered France from the U.K., and French inspectors found the dead animals today at a company in the country’s northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters. The carcasses were found after France was alerted by U.K. authorities and will be destroyed, he said.

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