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France hunting fraudsters in horsemeat scandal

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm •  Published: February 10, 2013

An affair that started earlier this year with worries about horsemeat in burgers in Ireland and Britain has spread into a Europe-wide scandal.

The EU commissioner for agriculture is meeting Monday with Romania's foreign minister about the latest horsemeat worries. Romanian President Traian Basescu said Sunday that his country could face potential export restrictions and lose credibility "for many years" if the Romanian butchers turn out to be the root of the problem.

"I hope that this won't happen," Basescu said in televised statements. Romania's agricultural ministry has begun an investigation.

In the Netherlands, Esther Filon, spokeswoman for the Dutch Foods and Wares Authority, said Sunday that the Dutch haven't started investigating but they are ready to if necessary.

"We're a ways away from being able to confirm or deny whether a Dutch company is involved," she said. "It would presumably be a question of fraud, rather than food safety. Horse meat can be sold legally in the Netherlands, as long as it is labeled as such."

Findus Sweden plans to sue France's Comigel for breach of contract and fraud, Findus Nordic CEO Jari Latvanen said Sunday. He said the company's deal with Comigel stipulates the beef in the lasagna should come from Germany, France or Austria, but that has not been the case.

"Customers must be able to trust the contents declaration," he said. "We will take strong action to make sure those who are liable in this affair are punished. Our reputation has been damaged, and we do everything to re-establish confidence."

Officials with Comigel did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails.

French media says Poujol subsidiary Spanghero bought the original meat in question. Spanghero says in a statement on its website that it bought what was labeled beef products from Romania, and threatened to take action against the supplier.


Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, and Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report.