French firm mum over British horsemeat scandal

8th February 2013, Comments 0 comments

The French food company that supplied frozen lasagne found to contain up to 100 percent horsemeat to British supermarkets on Friday shut down its website and declined to answer media enquiries.

Comigel, based in the northern city of Metz, supplies frozen meals to supermarket chains and other clients in 15 countries, with Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia the main markets, according to industry websites.

In the latest in a string of food scares in Britain, where eating horses is largely taboo, frozen food supplier Findus has withdrawn its beef lasagne products from sale after tests found some meals supplied by Comigel contained 60 percent to 100 percent horsemeat.

Samples are now being tested for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, a painkiller given to horses which can be dangerous for humans, the food agency said.

Erick Lehagre, the director of Comigel, declined to respond when AFP contacted the company for comment.

The firm's website has been taken down and on Friday showed only photos of some of its products -- including a lasagne dish -- along with a note saying the site was "under construction and will soon be renewed".

Comigel employs 200 people, according to press reports and industry websites, which said that in 2007 Cerea Capital investment fund took a majority share in the firm.

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.

© 2013 AFP

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