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French supermarkets withdraw thousands of products in horsemeat-for-beef scandal

Reuters/Charles Platiau

French supermarkets on Sunday withdrew thousands of ready-made meals produced by the company at heart of the European horsemeat-for-beef scandal. A government inquiry has revealed a complex supply chain that sourced its meat in Romania.

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Supermarkets belonging to Auchan, Casino, Carrefour, Système U, Cora, Monoprix and the Picard frozen food chain not only took lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise, already fingered as containing horsemeat, off the shelves they also withdrew cannelloni, moussaka

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and hachis parmentier that came from suppliers Comigel.

Comigel, whose headquarters is in the eastern French city of Metz, supplied numerous clients in 16 European countries from its factory in Luxembourg.

A French government inquiry has traced the meat back to its original supplier in Romania via the French holding company Pujol, which owns Spanghero, which bought the meat from a Cypriot trader who subcontracted to another trader in the Netherlands who bought the meat from a Romanian butcher and abattoir.

“We will see the results of the inquiry on Wednesday,” said the French minister responsible for consumers’ rights, Benoît Hamon. “And particularly whether the French company Spanghero knew it was buying horse or whether it was tricked.”

The government will punish those responsible if needs be, Hamon said.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon appealed for calm, pointing out that there has been no threat to public health.

British MP Anne McIntosh, who chairs the parliamentary environment, food and rural affairs committee, called for a ban on meat imports from continental Europe in a BBC interview.

Romanian food industry officials on Sunday claimed that their country’s controls would make it impossible to sell horsemeat as beef.

The meat would have been labelled to show both the country of origin and the abattoir it came from, according to Sorin Minea, the president of the Romalimenta food industry federation.

"The French importer should show these documents. If it doesn't have them, it may indicate that it was bought on the black market or that it wants to hide something," he said.

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