Horse Meat With Drug Enters French Market as Italy Pulls Product

Three out of the six horse carcasses shipped this year from the U.K. to France with traces of a painkiller probably entered the country’s meat-producing market, French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said.

France received an alert from U.K. authorities this month and withdrew three horse carcasses from the market, Agence France-Presse reported today, citing an unidentified agriculture ministry official. The alert came too late for the other carcasses, AFP reported. The horse carcasses with phenylbutazone, a drug that’s banned in food for humans, have no link with the mislabeling of horse meat as beef meat, AFP said.

“These carcasses had extremely weak traces of phenylbutazone,” Le Foll said today at the Paris farming fair. “There’s no health risk.”

Retailers across Europe have withdrawn frozen meat products after they were shown to contain horse DNA. The mislabeling scandal has led policy makers to urge the industry to make the food chain more transparent. The European Union on Feb. 19 recommended a plan to investigate fraudulent food-marketing practices in a bid to restore consumer confidence.

Italian health authorities said today that a frozen lasagna product tested positive for horse DNA, the first such case in the country. The product being sold in a supermarket in the northern city of Brescia wasn’t properly identified as horse meat on its label, according to an e-mailed statement from the Italian Health Ministry. The “Lasagna alla Bolognese,” made by a company in Bologna, has been removed from store shelves, the ministry said.

Italian Testing

Health officials have seized 6 tons of ground meat labeled as beef and 2,400 packages of the lasagna product, according to the statement. The ministry said authorities are continuing to conduct checks throughout Italy. Earlier today, the ministry said all meat samples tested at a Nestle SA plant near Turin were negative for horse DNA.

Nestle, the world’s largest food company, said Feb. 18 that it’s withdrawing some beef ravioli and beef tortellini products and halted deliveries after traces of horse DNA were found in food made with meat from a German supplier.

A frozen lasagna product made in France for the catering industry was also withdrawn, the Vevey, Switzerland-based company said in the statement.

In the U.K., about 1 percent of beef products tested were found to contain horse meat, the Food Standards Agency said Feb. 15.

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