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Spanghero accused in horsemeat probe

French government claims meat manufacturer knowingly mislabelled horsemeat as beef

FRENCH meat processing company Spanghero has denied claims made by the government that it was the first in a complex meat supply chain to knowingly mislabel horsemeat as beef.

Consumer affairs minister Benoît Hamon presented the findings of a preliminary investigation into the horsemeat scandal yesterday, while agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll said the firm's licence had been suspended pending further investigations.

The government believes at least 750 tonnes of horsemeat was labelled as beef over a period of at least six months. Spanghero imported the meat from Romania before selling it on to frozen food manufacturer Comigel.

The report claims that Spanghero bought the meat for a price well below the market rate for beef and made a profit of more than half a million euros over this period.

Hamon said the meat had left Romania clearly labelled as horse. He also said the buyer, Comigel, should have realised the anomaly with the paperwork.

Meanwhile, the European Union's health commissioner has encouraged member states - including France - to test meat for the presence of a horse painkiller.

Three horse carcasses from British abattoirs that were sent to France are reported to have contained small traces of phenylbutazone - known as "bute" - a veterinary medicine used to treat racehorses and potentially harmful to humans.

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