France keeps ban on key horsemeat firm

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Spanghero Reuters. A sign with the Spanghero logo is seen at their head office in Castelnaudary, Southwestern France.

Paris - French firm Spanghero, at the heart of the horsemeat scandal rocking Europe, will remain barred from the wholesale trade of frozen meat, the agriculture ministry said Friday, releasing the results of a probe.

The company sparked a continental food alert by allegedly passing off 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, and had its sanitary licence suspended last week.

On Monday, the company was allowed to resume production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals following protests from workers who said they were being unfairly penalised and were not in the loop about any fraud.

But Spanghero, whose horsemeat found its way into 4.5 million “beef” products sold across Europe, will no longer be allowed to stock frozen meat, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

“The conclusions of this investigation lead us to maintain the suspension of the sanitary licence,” it said, referring to whether Spanghero can store meat.

Upholding that ban means Spanghero cannot act as middleman between abattoirs and food-processing companies, the situation which allegedly allowed it to change labels on horsemeat and sell it on as beef.

A vast food scandal has erupted in Europe after horsemeat was initially found in so-called beef ready-made meals and burgers in Britain and Ireland.

It has spread to as far as Hong Kong where an imported brand of lasagne was pulled from shelves. - Sapa-AFP

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