Geneva - Europe's horse meat scandal has hit global food products giant Nestle, which said Tuesday it would withdraw some of its pasta dishes from the market in Spain and Italy.

In recent weeks a range of food products labelled beef have been found to contain horse meat in a dozen European countries, unsettling consumers and revealing complex and often opaque supply chains.

On Tuesday, Swiss-based Nestle said it was withdrawing some chilled pasta products because its tests had found traces of horse DNA in dishes made with meat supplied by a German company.

“We are now suspending deliveries of all our finished products produced using beef supplied by a German firm, H.J. Schypke, a subcontractor of one of our suppliers, JBS Toledo N.V.,” it said.

“Our tests have found traces of horse DNA in two products made from beef supplied by H.J. Schypke,” said a Nestle statement.

The meals being pulled off shelves were Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini, sold in Italy and Spain, and Lasagnes a la Bolognaise Gourmandes, made for catering businesses in France.

Nestle also told Portuguese media that a lasagne served in hotels and restaurants there would be withdrawn. It did not present a health risk, Nestle spokesman Antonio Carvalho told the news agency Lusa.

The company in Geneva stressed that “there is no food safety issue, but the mislabeling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us.”

Nestle apologized to consumers and said that the affected chilled products would be replaced with product confirmed by DNA testing to be made from 100 per cent beef.

Also Tuesday the Swiss arm of discount supermarket chain Lidl said it was withdrawing some products found to contain horse meat.

Lidl Switzerland said it had pulled Combino Penne Bolognese, produced by the company Copack, and Coquette Ravioli Bolognese, made by the firm William Saurin.

The horse meat scandal has spread to many corners of Europe. In Germany alone, it has been detected 24 times so far.

More cases would likely surface, said Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner, who added that the horses had probably been legally slaughtered and the meat “re-labelled somewhere along the way.”

The Greens' state consumer protection minister in North-Rhine Westphalia, Johannes Remmel, demanded meat labelling rules be tightened under the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) government.

Remmel said several reform initiatives had been launched in the past, “but they always failed because of the intervention of Mrs Aigner, the federal government and the CDU in parliament.” - Sapa-dpa