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UPDATE: Horsemeat containing harmful drug ‘entered food chain’ in France

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has called for compulsory labelling and traceability of meat in processed foods in Europe.

Updated 14.45pm

HORSEMEAT CONTAINING A drug potentially harmful to humans has likely entered the food chain, France said today, adding health concerns to the food scandal raging across Europe.

A spokesman for the French agriculture ministry told AFP that several horse carcasses containing the drug Phenylbutazone have probably ended up being eaten by consumers.

Phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory treatment for horses which is potentially harmful to humans and by law is supposed to be kept off of plates.

Britain alerted Paris that six tainted carcasses had been exported to France in January, but the meat had already been processed by the time the warning came, the spokesman said.

Although some of the meat had been recalled, the equivalent of three carcasses had “probably” made it to consumers, he said, adding that there was only a “minor” health risk.

Mandatory labelling

French President Francois Hollande said today that he would push for mandatory labelling of meat in ready-made meals.

“I want there to eventually be mandatory labels on the meat contained in prepared meals,” Francois Hollande said while visiting an agricultural show in Paris.

Until then, I will support… all initiatives for voluntary labelling” so that “consumers know the origin of the products they are consuming, especially meat.

French firm Spanghero has been at the heart of the scandal after it allegedly passed off 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, with the product eventually finding its way into 4.5 million “beef” products sold across Europe.

French authorities had initially suspended the company’s sanitary license, but following protests from 300-odd workers allowed the company to resume production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals.

The company was banned, however, from stocking frozen meat.

Lasagne

Italy has found its first case of horsemeat contamination in frozen lasagne produced in the same region where the famous Italian dish hails from, the ANSA news agency reported today.

The horsemeat was found in tests on six tonnes of mincemeat and 2,400 packages labelled as “lasagne bolognese” seized from a company near the city in central Italy.

The report identified the company as “Primia” and said it had used meat from another company in Brescia in northern Italy and originally supplied by two other companies also based in Brescia.

The tests were carried out as part of sweeping checks by police on 121 brands across the country.

Swiss giant Nestle, the world’s biggest food company,  said it was withdrawing two types of pasta meal on Monday from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain due to contamination that did not constitute a health risk.

- - © AFP, 2013

Read: Horsemeat labelled ‘beef’ sent to Czech Republic from Ireland>

Read: Nestle pulls beef products as horsemeat scandal grows>

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