Horsemeat scandal spreads to HK and Czech Republic

February 21, 2013 - 6:45:08 am

PARIS: Europe’s horsemeat scandal spread yesterday to Asia where an imported lasagne brand was pulled from the shelves in Hong Kong, as Czech officials ordered similar action on frozen meals mislabelled “beef”.

A host of top players have been caught up in the spiralling scandal including Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, top beef producer JBS of Brazil and British supermarket chain Tesco.

Hong Kong authorities ordered ParknShop, one of the biggest supermarket chains in the city, to remove lasagne made by frozen food giant Findus, one of the firms at the centre of the scandal. The product was imported from Britain and made by French firm Comigel.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety said the item “might be adulterated with horsemeat which has not undergone tests for veterinary drugs”. The ParknShop chain, owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, has about 280 stores in Hong Kong and Macau. 

In Europe, the Czech Republic became the latest country embroiled in the affair, with food inspectors ordering Tesco to withdraw Nowaco brand frozen “beef” lasagne after detecting horsemeat. 

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said it had found horse DNA in two samples of the Nowaco meals manufactured by the Tavola company in Luxembourg. Inspectors “ordered the seller to immediately withdraw the products from its network,” the authority said in a statement.

Supermarkets in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, France, Austria, Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Slovenia have all removed meals from shelves. The Czech authority noted that horsemeat is sold for human consumption in the country, but that if not mentioned on the product label it was misleading to consumers and could lead to a fine of up to 3m koruna ($159,000).

Spanghero, the French firm that sparked the food alert by allegedly passing off 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, was on Monday allowed to resume production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals. But the company, whose horsemeat found its way into 4.5 million “beef” products sold across Europe, will no longer be allowed to stock frozen meat.

Under the ban it cannot act as middleman between slaughterhouses and food-processing companies, the situation which allegedly allowed it to change labels on horsemeat from Romania and sell it on as beef.  AFP



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