PARIS Feb 9 The French government promised on
Saturday to punish those found responsible for selling horsemeat
in beef products at the heart of a growing scandal that started
in Britain but is quickly spreading to France.
Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said an investigation
had found that the horsemeat had originated in Romania, although
there were links with French, Dutch and Cypriot firms and a
factory in Luxembourg.
The British unit of frozen foods group Findus
began a recall this week of its beef lasagne from retailers on
advice from its French supplier, Comigel, over concerns that
some packs contained high levels of horsemeat.
Findus France said on Saturday that it too had recalled
lasagne and two other products after discovering that they
included horsemeat from Romania rather than beef from France as
it had thought.
Hamon said an EU-wide alert had been sent out and that it
was not yet clear whether there had been an intentional fraud or
the meat had been sold as beef by accident.
"I can assure you that, whether it's a question of
negligence or direct responsibility, there will be sanctions,"
Hamon said on iTele television.
Findus France director general Matthieu Lambeaux said in a
statement the company would file a legal complaint on Monday.
"We thought we had certified French beef in our products.
But in reality, we were supplied with Romanian horsemeat. We
have been deceived," Lambeaux said.
Hamon said a Luxembourg factory had been supplied by the
French firm Poujol, which had bought the meat frozen from a
Cypriot trader, who in turn sub-contracted the order to a Dutch
trader supplied by a Romanian abattoir.
However, Findus's supplier Comigel, a frozen foods producer
based in Metz in eastern France, told a local newspaper that it
had bought the meat from another French company, which had been
supplied from a Romanian abattoir.
Butcheries specialised in horsemeat used to be a common
sight in French cities, but have closed one by one in recent
decades as the meat has fallen out of favour with consumers.