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Food Security

Horsemeat ready meals prompt European food recall

The food giant Findus has recalled frozen meals from several European countries amid fears they could contain horsemeat. It comes a day after a beef lasagna in Britain was found to contain up to 100 percent horse.

The Swedish frozen foods company withdrew all ready-made beef lasagna products from the shelves in Sweden and France on Friday following similar action in Britain.

The move comes after Britain's Food Standards Agency, the FSA, found that 11 out of 18 samples of the meal tested positive for between 60 and 100 percent horsemeat.

While stressing that there was no evidence that the products posed a risk to public health, FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes told BBC radio that more tests were being carried out.

"We are testing a very broad range of products, including those that go to schools and hospitals," Rhodes said. "We are demanding that all the manufacturers, all the retailers, test all of their products to rule out any further contamination ... I can't speculate on what we might find."

The FSA announced that tests on the suspect lasagna would be looking for traces of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone. In rare cases the drug has known to cause a serious blood disorder in humans.

The Findus meals in question were produced in Luxembourg for the French supplier Comigel. It, in turn, had used a Luxembourg supplier called Tavola. News agency AFP quoted Comigel director Erich Lehagre as saying the horsemeat originated in a Romanian abattoir.

Comigel supplies frozen meals to supermarket chains and clients in 16 countries. Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia make up the company's main market, while Findus is among the brands it has contracts with.

Horsemeat scandals plague Britain

The Europe-wide scandal is the latest of its kind to hit Britain this year. Equine DNA was found two weeks ago in beef burgers sold to companies including Britain's biggest supermarket firm Tesco and fast-food chain Burger King.

Millions of beef burgers have since been removed from sale.

Speaking in Brussels after a European Union summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the situation was "very shocking."

"People will be very angry to find out that they have been eating horse when they thought they were eating beef," he said.

His spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the British government was looking into both cases, which "at the heart were acts of criminality."

"If you are a company buying a particular meat and you are led to believe it is what you asked for, but then you find it's not, then clearly there's been some law broken there," she said.

The consumption of horsemeat in Britain and Ireland is widely taboo and has prompted widespread outrage.

ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters)