Hamon said French probe had uncovered evidence of fraud at Spanghero (photo: Rémi Désert)

Hamon said French probe had uncovered evidence of fraud at Spanghero (photo: Rémi Désert)

The French government has pointed the finger firmly at local firm Spanghero in the scandal over horse meat being passed off as beef.

At a conference to present the findings of goverment inspections of Spanghero and French Findus supplier Comigel, French consumer minister Benoit Hamon launched a damning attack on Spanghero.

"The investigation points towards the fact Spanghero knew that it was labelling beef which was potentially horse. There are strong suspicions," he said.

He said inspections at Spanghero had uncovered evidence products had been re-labelled and labels that did not meet regulations.

Over several months, the fraud concerned 750 tonnes of meat of which 550 tonnes was delivered to Comigel's plant in Luxembourg, Hamon explained. Some 200 tonnes were used in Spanghero's own-brand products. Spanghero made a profit estimated at EUR550,000 from the fraud, he claimed.

Spanghero has had its health and safety certification suspended with immediate effect and also faces veterinary inspections at his premises in the coming days.

Spanghero continues to deny any wrong-doing. "Spanghero can confirm that it has only ordered, taken delivery of and re-sold meat reputed to be beef and duly labelled as such in conformity with EU and French regulations," it said.

Reports have claimed Spanghero was billed for 42 tonnes of low-grade horsemeat from Draap Trading, a Dutch firm that has emerged as a suspect in the contamination claims. Spanghero said it was unable to identify the serial number on the bill as a customs code for horsemeat.

Hamon also had tough words for Comigel. He said it had taken delivery of meat from Spanghero that had non-compliant labels. In addition, on defrosting the consignments, it should have known by the colour and odour of the meat that it was not beef.