Meat firm has its licence suspended
A French meat processing company has had its licence suspended after the government accused it of knowingly selling horse meat as beef.
An inquiry by the French authorities into how horse meat found its way into ready meals across Europe found that the firm, Spanghero, must have known it was selling horse meat fraudulently labelled as beef.
“The investigation shows Spanghero knew the meat labelled as beef could be horse,” consumer affairs minister Benoît Hamon said yesterday.
The French government believes that the practice went on for six months and involved about 750 tonnes of meat.
According to the inquiry, Spanghero received meat labelled “BF Roumanie”, suggesting it was beef originating in Romania, but the invoices and customs code indicated it was horse meat. Mr Hamon said Spanghero also could not have failed to notice that the meat in question was much cheaper than beef.
Spanghero’s operating licence has been suspended, and agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll said the government was considering revoking the licence altogether. More tests are to be carried out at its base in the southern town of Castelnaudary.
Spanghero firmly rejected the accusation that it knowingly sold horse meat marked as 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 company said.
Spanghero was a link in a convoluted supply chain that saw Romanian horse meat shipped via the Netherlands and then on to food processors producing dishes labelled as beef for Findus and other brands sold in several European countries, including Ireland.
The French inquiry cleared a Romanian abattoir of wrongdoing, saying the evidence it had collected indicated the correct labels were in place when the product left the site. The report suggested the “BF Roumanie” label could have been affixed by traders who were involved at different stages. Mr Hamon said there was “no reason to doubt the good faith of the Romanian company”.
The inquiry also pointed a finger at Comigel, the French firm which turned the meat into frozen ready-meals for Findus and other distributors, saying it could have done more to detect the problem. In addition to anomalies in the paperwork, staff should have noticed that the meat had neither the colour nor odour of beef.