Greencore bolognese withdrawn
French minister Benoit Hamon holds a meat packing information sheet during a news conference with minister Stephane Le Foll. Supplier Spanghero knowingly sold horsemeat labelled as beef, according to the government. Photograph:Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
Greencore said it supplied the beef bolognese sauce withdrawn by Asda today after it was found to contained meat with equine DNA from the Tipperary ABP plant.
The Irish-headquartered Greencore plc said it is “currently awaiting the results of further quantitative tests that will validate the presence and the extent of the equine DNA”.
The Chosen By You 350g beef bolognese sauce contained meat supplied under contract by the Nenagh, Co Tipperary plant of Larry Goodman's ABP group, Greencore said.
“The company is working closely" with ABP to "determine the full facts as we await the results of the further tests,” Greencore said in a statement. Greencore plc chief executive Patrick Coveney is the brother of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
British supermarket chain Asda has also withdrawn three other Greencore products “as a precautionary measure” and “none of which contain equine DNA” Greencore said.
An ABP spokesman said “in the last few weeks we have carried out hundreds of tests on fresh beef and to date they have all tested negative for equine DNA.
“ABP again reiterates that we have never knowingly purchased or processed equine meat.”
Earlier today a French investigation into how horsemeat found its way into ready meals in Europe found that a French processing company called Spanghero sold as beef what could have been horsemeat.
"It would seem that the first agent in this chain to label the meat 'beef' was indeed Spanghero," France's consumer affairs minister Benoit Hamon told a news conference of the company based in the southwestern town of Castelnaudry.
"The investigation shows Spanghero knew the meat labelled as beef could be horse. There was a strong suspicion," he said, arguing that Spanghero could also not have failed to notice that the meat in question was much cheaper than beef.
Spanghero has rejected accusations that it knowingly sold horsemeat labelled as beef and said it believed that it was selling was beef.
"Spanghero confirms having placed an order for beef, having been led to believe it received beef, and having sold back what it thought was beef, properly labelled as such, in line with European and French regulations," the firm said in an emailed statement.
French agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll said the government was considering withdrawing Spanghero's operating licence.
The investigation found the company had generated a profit of €550,000 over six months by selling cheap horsemeat as beef, Mr Hamon said.
Meanwhile in the UK, three men were arrested tonight by officers investigating the horse meat scandal.
The men were arrested at plants in Aberystwyth and Todmorden, West Yorkshire, which were inspected on Tuesday by the Food Standards Agency.
“At Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, Dyfed-Powys Police have arrested two men aged 64 years and 42 years, and in a simultaneous operation police arrested a man aged 63 at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire," police said. Police said all have been arrested on suspicion of offences under the fraud act.
The two plants became the first UK suppliers suspected of passing off horse meat for beef.
Production at both plants was suspended pending the outcome of investigations into claims they supplied and used horse carcasses in meat products purporting to be beef for burgers and kebabs.
The FSA said today it had “detained” all meat found at the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two companies.
The arrests came as it emerged a significant amount of horse meat containing the painkiller phenylbutazone, or “bute”, could have been entering the food chain for some time.
Authorities in Britain and France are trying to trace the carcasses of six horses contaminated with bute, which were slaughtered in a UK abattoir and may have entered the human food chain across the Channel.
The drug, which is potentially harmful to human health, was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the FSA in the first week of this month.
Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horse meat is commonly eaten.