Abhik Kumar Chanda Paris

EUROPE’S horsemeat scandal spread to Asia yesterday, where an imported lasagne brand was pulled from the shelves in Hong Kong, as Czech officials ordered similar action on frozen meals mislabelled “beef”.

A host of top players in the food chain have been caught up in the spiralling scandal, including Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, top beef producer JBS of Brazil and British supermarket chain Tesco.

Hong Kong authorities ordered ParknShop, one of the biggest supermarket chains in the city, to remove lasagne made by frozen food giant Findus, one of the companies at the centre of the scandal.

The product was imported from Britain and made by French firm Comigel.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety said that the item “might be adulterated with horsemeat which has not undergone tests for veterinary drugs”.

A ParknShop spokeswoman said: “The product was removed from our stores last week following the government’s instructions.”

The chain, owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, has about 280 stores in Hong Kong and the neighbouring gaming hub of Macau. A spokeswoman at the government’s food and environmental hygiene department said only one contaminated product had so far been sold in Hong Kong.

In Europe, the Czech Republic became the latest country embroiled in the affair, with food inspectors ordering Tesco to withdraw Nowaco brand frozen “beef” lasagne after detecting horsemeat.

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said that it had found horse DNA in two samples of the Nowaco meals manufactured at a plant in Luxembourg.

Inspectors had “ordered the seller to immediately withdraw the products from its network”, the food safety authority said in a statement.

“We are very sorry about the situation and we will discuss the matter with the supplier,” said Tesco spokesman Jan Dvorak. Supermarkets in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, France, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Slovenia have all removed meals from shelves.– Sapa-AFP