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Withdrawn meals may go to charity

Frozen ready-meals taken off shelves due to horsemeat scandal may be given to the needy in government move

THE government has said frozen meat products like lasagnes, withdrawn from sale due to the horsemeat scandal, can be given to charities – however charities had mixed reactions to the plan.

Consumer Minister Benoît Hamon said there is a regulation saying food withdrawn due to labelling problems (but otherwise not posing a health risk) can be given away to good causes.

Wrong labelling – as beef – of product lines which in some cases were found to contain horsemeat is the crux of the scandal which has centred on meat from Romania imported by French firm Spanghero via a middleman in the Netherlands. The government has already pointed the finger at Spanghero, saying they probably knew the meat, which went on to be used in Findus products, was not beef.

However charities’ reactions have been mixed.

The president of Secours Populaire, Julien Lauprêtre, told France Info “hunger is not only an issue in distant countries like Africa, and we want to do everything we can to make sure these products are not thrown away”.

However, he added he was happy to accept it “as long as there are no health concerns and everything is clear as concerns the contents and origins of the food”.

A spokesman for Secours Catholique, Bernard Schricke, looked the gift horse in the mouth, saying taking the meals would be disrespectful towards the people they help. “It would mean saying to them ‘the consumers don’t want this food, there’s been fraud over these products, but you shouldn’t mind that because you’re in difficulty”.

Inquiries are ongoing into the affair and the government is looking at tougher measures on labelling and more severe sanctions for such frauds.

Meanwhile Spanghero, denying it knew the meat was not beef, is taking legal action for fraud, saying the blame is to be found further up the chain of supply. It says it wants to make sure that French justice fully clarifies who was responsible in this matter “of which we are one of the main victims”.

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