Findus fights back: Blame game spreads across Europe as minister warns of horsemeat in other meals

Firms embroiled in escalating horsemeat contamination scandal prepare to sue as allegations focus on Romanian abattoir

Two companies embroiled in the horsemeat scandal have revealed they are ready to sue further down the supply chain, as the investigation spreads across Europe and a government minister warns more contamination may be found in other food.

Speaking after emergency talks with industry leaders Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said: "There may well be more bad results coming through, that's the point of doing this random analysis.

"This is a conspiracy against the public. Selling a product as beef, and including a lot of horse in it is fraud."

He also said retailers hold the "ultimate responsibility" for making sure that horsemeat is not in their products.

The Food Standards Authority (FSA) have asked retailers and processors to test all their processed beef products to make sure they are what they say they are, with the results expected by next Friday.

Findus, whose "beef" lasagne was found to contain up to 100 per cent horse DNA, is preparing a legal case against whoever is found to have caused the contamination. In a statement, the firm said: "Findus is taking legal advice about the grounds for pursuing a case against its suppliers, regarding what they believe is their suppliers’ failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity.

"The early results from Findus UK’s internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in Beef Lasagne was not accidental."

The Trading Standards Institute has said the discovery of such high levels of horse meat suggests "deliberate fraudulent activity," and Scotland Yard said officers met the FSA over the scandal, although there is currently no official police investigation.

And Spanghero, the French company who supplied the meat for the lasagne, announced they will sue their Romanian suppliers.

The firm's President Bartholemy Aguerre said today: "We bought European origin beef and we resold it. If it really is horsemeat, we are going to go after the Romanian supplier." He did not disclose the name of the supplier.

The lasagnes, as well as similarly contaminated ready meals sold by the budget supermarket Aldi, were supplied by by French frozen food giant Comigel. The meat packed at Comigel's Luxembourg factory, where the contamination originated, came from Spanghero's plant in south-west France.

It has also been revealed that 20 months ago the factory was at the centre of a major E.coli scare.

Inspectors had feared the Spanghero factory had churned out 12 tonnes of meat harbouring the potentially fatal bacteria. 

Spanghero told the Daily Telegraph it had been given a clean bill of health following the E.Coli scare, with a source saying: "The beef was destroyed as a precaution but it did not threaten anybody’s health."

A criminal investigation is ongoing, and Mr Paterson said: "I've got a nasty feeling it's actually a criminal conspiracy.

"And that's why it's quite right for the FSA to engage the Metropolitan Police who are working with other police forces across the mainland of Europe."

Findus has also had to reiterate that it only learned this month about the contamination, which could have begun as early as August 2012. This followed accusations that it had known earlier but failed to tell regulators.

Yesterday Aldi said it felt "angry and let down" over the horsemeat content in their products.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the matter is "shocking" and "completely unacceptable".

Labour leader Ed Miliband described the situation as "appalling".

He added: "I think people in the country will be quite shocked that horse meat has been in the food that they have been innocently buying.

"The Government has got to get a grip on this situation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant - Oxford

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: As a successful and growing Security Installat...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Agent - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation and Support Consultant

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A consultant is required to pro...

Recruitment Genius: Office Assistant

£12675 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Assistant is required...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn