* France says beef contaminated with horse came from Romania
* Findus planning legal action against suppliers
* Britain warns more cases of contamination could emerge
* Romania checking whether its abattoirs supplied the meat
By Leigh Thomas and Tim Castle
PARIS/LONDON, Feb 9 The French and British
governments 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.
French 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.
British environment minister Owen Paterson said more cases
of contaminated food could emerge as British retailers conducted
tests for horsemeat on processed beef products. The scandal
threatens to affect consumer confidence in Europe's giant food
industry, with pressure rising for greater checks.
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 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 eastern France, told a newspaper it had bought the meat
from another French company, supplied from a Romanian abattoir.
Romanian authorities said they would punish any violations
if the reports were confirmed.
"The agriculture ministry and food safety authority will try
to identify as soon as possible whether the (meat) comes from
Romania. If legislation was broken, they will punish such
practices that damage the image of the entire industry,"
Romania's agriculture ministry said.
In Britain Findus said it believed the contamination was
"The early results from Findus UK's internal investigation
strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in beef
lasagne was not accidental," it said.
Findus's product recall was followed in Britain by
supermarket chain Aldi, which withdrew two frozen beef products
supplied by Comigel after they tested positive for horsemeat.
Paterson summoned Britain's leading food retailers and
representatives of food processors to an emergency meeting at
his office in London on Saturday to discuss the crisis.
He said participants were determined to get to the bottom of
a scandal which he said was either caused by "gross incompetence
or what I suspect is an international criminal conspiracy".
Britain's government is under pressure to appear on top of
the scandal, which comes less than a month after supermarket
chain Tesco and fast food outlet Burger King
found horsemeat in beef burgers from an Irish supplier.
Britons generally do not eat horsemeat, regarding its
consumption as a quirk of French appetites. However, the meat
has also fallen out of favour with consumers in France.