Horsemeat scandal: French supermarkets act

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INVESTIGATIONS into the European horsemeat scandal widened across Europe yesterday, as French supermarkets pulled products supplied by companies in Romania, Cyprus and the Netherlands which were implicated in the convoluted supply chain of contaminated processed beef.

Carrefour was among the leading supermarket chains in France to remove a host of ready meals from its shelves, after consumer watchdogs claimed the products contained undeclared horsemeat.

France’s junior minister for consumer goods, Benoit Hamon, said the motivation for passing off horsemeat as beef appeared to be financial, adding that the relevant authorities in the country were concentrating on pursuing anyone guilty of fraud.

A subsidiary of the French company Poujol is said to have supplied a Luxembourg factory with frozen meat bought from a Cypriot trader, who had received it from a Dutch food trader.

The Dutch company had in turn received the meat from two Romanian butchers.

Romania’s president scrambled to salvage his country’s reputation as the local authorities investigated the claim.

Traian Basescu said yesterday that his country would lose credibility “for many years” if the Romanian butchers turned out to be the root of the problem.

Stressing that no irregularities had been discovered yet, Mr Basescu he said he feared possible export restrictions if Romania was found to be behind the meat supply scandal. He added: “I hope that this won’t happen.”

Officials in the Netherlands said they would also investigate if necessary.

Esther Filon, a spokeswoman for the Netherlands food standards authority, said: “We’re a ways away from being able to confirm or deny whether a Dutch company is involved.

“It would presumably be a question of fraud, rather than food safety.

“Horsemeat can be sold legally in the Netherlands, as long as it is labeled as such.”