MARSEILLE, France Horsemeat has been found in France in a shipment of 320 tonnes of meat labeled "pure beef" that was imported from eastern Europe via the Netherlands, a local prosecutor said on Friday.
The horsemeat, found during tests in the southeastern city of Cavaillon in meat intended for use in ready-made meals, was the latest in a scandal that has spread across Europe since equine DNA was found in beef products in Ireland in January.
"The tests, carried out three weeks ago, have shown the presence of horsemeat in most batches," Vaucluse prosecutor Yannick Blanc told Reuters.
The meat came from various eastern European countries and transited through the warehouses of Dutch companies Draap Trading and Windmeijer Meat Trading, the prosecutor said.
The firms could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last month, after a senior Romanian food safety official identified Draap Trading as a buyer of horsemeat from Romania, a lawyer for Draap official Jan Fasen denied all allegations, including of being a major player in a fraud network.
No horsemeat was found in one batch that came directly from Romania without going through the Netherlands, Blanc said.
A spokesman from the Dutch food safety authority declined to comment about the specific case but said there was a continuing investigation to trace the supply chain for beef potentially containing horsemeat, imported to the Netherlands and then re-exported to France.
French President Francois Hollande called last month for compulsory labeling and traceability of meat used in processed foods in Europe to prevent a repeat of the horsemeat scandal.
(Reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet; Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Amsterdam; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Michael Roddy)