FRANCE: French retailers pull products amid horse meat fears

By Dean Best | 11 February 2013

Six of France's largest retail chains have pulled products from their shelves amid concerns the lines could contain horse meat.

Retailers including Carrefour and Casino have recalled SKUs supplied by Findus and by French supplier Comigel, which last week emerged at the centre of the contamination.

A statement issued yesterday (10 February) by French retail association FCD said the grocers that had delisted products also include Auchan, frozen-food specialist Picard, Louis Delhaize-owned Cora and Casino's Monoprix chain.

The recalls followed an announcement on Friday from Findus's French operation that it was pulling three products contaminated with horse meat. The recall followed Findus's admission in the UK on Thursday that its lasagne on sale in the country contained horse meat.

The scandal broke last month in Ireland and the UK, two countries where eating horse meat is considered taboo. Horse meat has traditionally been a part of the French diet but has become less popular in recent years.

When the contamination first emerged last month, after burgers supplied by ABP Food Group were found to contain horse meat, there were claims the horse meat had originated in Poland. Officials in Poland, however, last week insisted there was no evidence the source was suppliers in Poland.

Over the weekend, the financial director of Findus's French unit reportedly said the products it recalled contained horse meat from Romania.

Meanwhile, the French government outlined what it believed was the source of the horse meat. French government minister Benoit Hamon said the horse meat had come from a Romanian abbatoir via traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands and ended up at French company Poujol. The firm then sold the horse meat to a factory in Luxembourg owned by Comigel, which supplies Findus.

The frozen food giant, owned by private-equity firm Lion Capital, has also recalled products in Sweden. Over the weekend, Findus's UK and French arms said they could launch legal action against its suppliers.

In the UK, where the scandal has dominated national news bulletins, industry and government officials met on Saturday to discuss the crisis.

The food industry will this week test beef products for horse meat, with the results set for publication on Friday.

After the meeting, the UK's Food Standards Agency said: "It has also been agreed that initial tests will focus on the areas of most concern, but that all products will be tested as part of the programme and all results reported.

"Defra [The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and the FSA have demanded more authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and for industry to provide the results to the FSA.

"The FSA remains the lead investigating authority and there is currently no police investigation. However, the FSA and police are working closely and the police will be involved if the evidence suggests a level of criminality within the UK that the police should deal with. The most recent information regarding Aldi and Findus does suggest gross negligence or possibly criminality, and we are working closely with the French authorities as part of the investigation. Europol are also aware of our investigations."

Sectors: Food safety, Frozen, Meat & poultry, Private label, Retail

Companies: Findus, Casino, Carrefour, Auchan, ABP Food Group, Lion Capital, Aldi

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