Romania finds horsemeat in beef batch

BUCHAREST Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:59pm EST

BUCHAREST Feb 20 (Reuters) - Horsemeat labelled as beef has been found in Romania in products set to be sold locally, an agriculture ministry official said on Wednesday.

A scandal which has triggered recalls of ready-made meals and damaged confidence in Europe's vast and complex food industry, erupted last month when tests carried out in Ireland revealed that some beef products also contained horsemeat.

An investigation has identified a French meat-processing firm as the likely culprit in the row that has implicated traders and abattoirs from Cyprus to Romania.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Achim Irimescu was quoted by state news agency Agerpres as saying veterinary and animal health authority has tracked down a batch of 100 kg (220 lb) of horsemeat "falsely labelled as beef by a Bucharest trader".

"We took all the necessary measures and decided to expand control activities at other enterprises," Irimescu, who would not name the warehouse, added.

The ANSVSA veterinary watchdog said suspect meat might have entered shopping outlets and an investigation was under way. The agriculture ministry was not immediately available to comment.

European Union governments approved an EU-wide programme of DNA tests on beef products to assess the scale of a food scandal involving mislabelled horsemeat, the bloc's executive said last week.

The British government and the European Union have called for a high-level meeting to investigate the scandal, and it will be on the agenda of a Feb. 25 EU farm ministers' meeting.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Michael Roddy)