Europe's Horsemeat Scandal: Swedish Company Brands French Supplier 'The Villain'

Others likely to follow food company's lead

 @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com
on February 10 2013 4:11 PM

Findus Nordic, the Swedish frozen foods processor, said Sunday it has only just begun a process of suing Comigel S.A.S., a privately held French food processing company based in Metz, which it has identified as the “villain” behind the horsemeat scandal that has Brits and Irish gagging at the thought that their junk and processed treats might have contained – and possibly still do -- bits of beloved and noble steed.

For horse-loving carnivores, this could be grounds for a mass conversion to vegetarianism. For governments, the scandal has cast light on regulatory failure. And for the food companies involved, it’s a public relations nightmare that will likely hit their bottom lines for months if not years to come. Meanwhile, Findus has found horsemeat in its beef products in Sweden and France and several European governments have launched investigations.

The issue highlights the complexity of the European meat supply chain. So far, eight countries have been dragged into to this controversy. In one case French regulators say a Cypriot trader facilitated a transaction of tainted meat from a Dutch company that acquired the meat from a Romanian supplier.

"We are only at the beginning of our legal process. Comigel will end up in a lot of legal processes going forward, I imagine," Findus Nordic CEO Jari Latvanen said on CNN Sunday. "Comigel is the villain."

Indeed, before this latest food debacle is through, Comigel is likely to find itself inundated with litigation and regulatory slapdowns. While Findus is the first company to initiate litigation after horsemeat was discovered in its beef lasagna, shepherd’s pie and moussaka in the UK on Feb. 7, other companies, including Coop, ICA and Axfood, have pulled related items off store shelves pending investigations.

French Consumer Goods Minister Benoit Hamon said Saturday that a preliminary investigation found that the source of horse-tainted beef from an unnamed French company originated in Romania.

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