Paris - The French food company that supplied frozen lasagne found to contain up to 100 percent horsemeat to British supermarkets said Friday the dishes presented no risk to human health.
In its first reaction to the scandal, Comigel said it had withdrawn all products from a meat supplier that had provided it with horsemeat instead of beef, but said veterinary services in France and Luxembourg had said the horsemeat in question “does not raise any public health issue”.
The statement came as Britain's food safety agency carried out tests on the lasagne samples aimed at establishing whether they contained the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, a painkiller given to horses which can be dangerous for humans.
Comigel has its administrative headquarters in Metz in northeastern France but its production centres are in Luxembourg.
The company supplies frozen meals to supermarket chains and other clients in 16 countries, with Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia the main markets and Findus products among the brands it provides for.
In a statement, the company said: “Our standard controls and audit procedures have revealed a traceability issue with one of our suppliers of which some of the products have given evidence of the presence of horsemeat when all our related meat orders require exclusively 100 percent certified pure beef.
“We have identified the meat supplier who is responsible for this non-conformity issue and have withdrawn all products related to this supplier.
“We have kept our clients and the relevant authorities in France and Luxemburg informed of the result of our investigations. We have received confirmation from the Luxemburg veterinary services and, in France, from the Moselle branch of the DDPP (the Regional Authority for the Protection of Populations) that the horsemeat evidence in question does not raise any public health issue.
“Comigel wishes to reassure its clients that all steps are being taken to prevent the re-occurrence of such an issue and is working closely with its relevant partners in the food sector and all competent authorities to this end.
“Comigel reserves the right to take further legal action.”
In Britain, where eating horses is largely taboo, frozen food supplier Findus has withdrawn its beef lasagne products from sale after tests found some meals supplied by Comigel contained 60 percent to 100 percent horsemeat.
Comigel's initial reaction was to go into hiding, with the company's website taken down and officials refusing to answer any queries.
According to press reports, the company employs 200 people and is majority-owned by the Cerea Capital investment fund.
A further 240 people are employed in a sister food company, Atlantique Alimentaire, based in La Rochelle on France's Atlantic coast, the reports said.
The lasagne affair is the latest horsemeat-related scare after horse DNA was found two weeks ago in beefburgers in Britain and Ireland. - Sapa-AFP