Horsemeat scandal hits France
Horsemeat containing a drug potentially harmful to humans has probably entered the food chain, France announced at the weekend, as Italy became the latest country to be drawn into the contaminated-meat scandal.
A German minister suggested giving to the poor products mislabelled as beef products but containing horsemeat.
Several horse carcasses containing the drug phenylbutazone had probably been eaten by consumers, a French agriculture ministry spokesman said.
Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory treatment for horses, is potentially harmful to humans and is banned for consumption.
Britain alerted Paris that six tainted carcasses had been exported to France last month, but by that time the meat had already been processed.
Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said that although some of the meat had been recalled, the equivalent of three carcasses had "probably" made it to consumers.
There was, however, "no health risk" since the traces of phenylbutazone found in the meat were "extremely weak", he added.
Le Foll said this incident was not connected to the wider horsemeat scandal since the meat had not been disguised as beef.
But the announcement added a new dimension to the scandal.
The row over mislabelled meat erupted in Europe in January after horsemeat was found in so-called beef ready-made meals and burgers in Britain and Ireland.
Since then, supermarkets across Europe have taken prepared meals off their shelves, with effects felt as far away as Hong Kong, where an imported brand of lasagne has been pulled from stores.
On Saturday, Italy joined the long list of countries that have been hit by the fraud, reporting its first case of horsemeat-contaminated lasagne.
Horsemeat was found in tests on six tons of mincemeat and 2400 "lasagne bolognese" packages produced by an Italian company.