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Horsemeat scandal: Allegations of cruelty

21 February 2013, 12:04

Paris - A new row over the treatment of horses farmed in the Americas has erupted as the fallout from Europe's horsemeat scandal spread far outside the continent, with an imported lasagne brand pulled from shelves in Hong Kong.

Most Swiss supermarkets on Wednesday withdrew horsemeat products from their shelves, not due to the spiralling fake labelling scandal but over allegations of cruel conditions on farms where horses are bred for meat.

German discount chain Lidl said it had removed all horsemeat products from its shelves in Switzerland, while the country's second largest supermarket chain, Coop, said it had withdrawn around 20 horsemeat sausage products.

The move came amid outcry over an investigative consumer show that aired Tuesday evening on Swiss public television, featuring images taken by animal protection activists showing starving and visibly sick and suffering horses on farms in a number of countries that provide meat to Swiss stores.

The Zurich-based Animal Protection Association had sent investigators to large horsemeat producing countries Canada, the United States, Mexico and Argentina to probe how the animals were kept, transported and slaughtered.

"Our investigators found that the horses were bred in conditions that did not meet any of the norms in place in Switzerland and the European Union," project leader Sabrina Gurtner said.


Coop however said it would continue to sell fresh horsemeat, pointing out that it receives 70% of that meat from France and the remaining 30% from Poland.

Switzerland's largest supermarket chain, Migros, meanwhile said it would not withdraw any horsemeat products, saying it trusted its Canadian supplier.

Dried horsemeat products are widely consumed in Switzerland.

Elsewhere Bolivia's President Evo Morales slammed western fast food as "a threat to humanity" as he accused multinational firms of seeking to block the development of his country's staple food quinoa.

The left-wing Bolivian leader slammed capitalist "fast food" for causing cancer and other diseases, in a speech to the UN General Assembly to launch the commemorative year.

Morales steered clear of the growing horsemeat scandal which European officials have been keen to stress is a labelling issue not a public health issue.

Czech Republic drawn in

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 on Wednesday that the item "might be adulterated with horsemeat which has not undergone tests for veterinary drugs".

The chain, owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, has about 280 stores in Hong Kong and the neighbouring gaming hub of Macau.

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

Customers misled

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.

Croatian company Ledo, which imported beef lasagne containing horsemeat into Slovenia, on Wednesday also accused Tavola of being responsible.

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 $159 000.

Spanghero, the French firm that sparked the food alert by allegedly passing off 750 tons 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.

Sales dive

The firm's sanitary licence was suspended last Thursday after it was accused of passing off huge quantities of mislabelled meat over a period of six months.

Investigators on Wednesday conducted a second day of raids on Spanghero's headquarters in Castelnaudary in southern France, a source close to the probe said, adding they had already seized several documents and copied computer records.

About 60 workers from French company Fraisnor, which produces fresh lasagne, demonstrated on Wednesday in the northern town of Feuchy for state financial aid, saying their sales had dived 70% after the scandal.

The company, which manufactures about 700 tons of fresh lasagne a month, is on the point of laying off some of its employees.



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