Horsemeat scandal: First arrests in Britain - and French Spanghero plant suspected of labelling 750 tons of Romanian horsemeat as 'beef'

 

A fraudulent meat-trader in the south of France was the probable source of horsemeat in British Findus beef lasagne, the French Government has said.

The French consumer minister, Benoît Hamon, said that an official investigation had uncovered "strong suspicions" that the Spanghero company in Castlenaudary, in Languedoc, had mislabelled 750 tons of Romanian horse meat as beef.

In the UK, the first arrests were made over the food scandal, with police and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) swooping on two meat plants suspected of slipping undeclared horse meat into burgers and kebabs.

At the Farmbox Meats de-boning factory, near Aberystwyth, they arrested Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, the owner, and a second man aged 42. In a simultaneous operation a 63-year-old man at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, was arrested and all three were being questioned on suspicion of fraud.

The operation was disclosed minutes before Asda became the latest major supermarket in Britain to be caught up in the crisis. It took a 500g beef bolognese sauce off the shelves, the first time a fresh beef product has tested positive for undeclared horse. Asda also withdrew a 600g beef broth soup, 500g meat feast pasta sauce and a 400g chilli con carne soup as a "precaution".

Like many other developments in the scandal, the news was slipped out shortly before 7pm. As the Government sought to reassure the public, the FSA revealed that veterinary drug phenylbutazone, "bute", had been found in eight out of 206 carcasses tested over seven days this month.

The anti-inflammatory drug is linked to a rare blood disorder in humans, but the Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, said that the risk of ingesting a significant dose through horse meat is extremely small. A human would have to eat hundreds of bute-tainted burgers in a single day to receive a significant dose, she said.

The French investigators disclosed that more than 550 tons of the meat were shipped to a factory in Luxembourg owned by the French company Comigel, which makes frozen meals for Findus and a dozen other European brands. Comigel had been "tricked", Mr Hamon said, but should have checked the meat and accompanying documents more rigorously.

Spanghero – founded by the brothers of one of France's greatest rugby heroes, Walter Spanghero – was suspended from meat trading. The French government plans to bring criminal proceedings against the company which no longer has any connection with the Spanghero family.

"The first elements of the investigation has shown that the Romanian horse meat was first labelled as beef by Spanghero," Mr Hamon told a press conference. "Our inquiries suggest the company knew – or at least that there are strong suspicions they knew – that they were selling horse meat as beef."

The investigation by the French consumer fraud agency has uncovered documents suggesting that the mislabelling started "several months" ago. It has cleared the Romanian abattoir of all blame. The meat was exported from Romania and handled by a Dutch trading company, based in Cyprus. So far, the French investigation has found no documents to suggest the Dutch company, Draap Trading, was complicit in the suspected fraud by Spanghero.

Mr Hamon believes the French company was guilty of "fraud for economic gain". Spanghero later rejected the allegations. In a formal statement, it said: "Spanghero reaffirms (that it) placed an order for beef... (that it) was led to believe that it received beef, and sold back what it thought was beef."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Web Developer - PHP

£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is now ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral