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Horsemeat scandal: France summons meat industry chiefs
From: BBC          Published On: February 11, 2013, 07:00 GMT
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French consumer, agriculture and food ministers are to hold crisis talks with key players in the meat industry as the horsemeat scandal widens.

Six French supermarket chains have withdrawn frozen beef meals made by Findus and Comigel.

The move followed the discovery that foods sold in Europe and the UK labelled as beef contained horsemeat.

The scandal has raised questions about the complexity of the food industry's supply chains across the EU.

It has already had an impact on distributors in the UK, France, Sweden, Ireland and Romania.

Food Minister Guillaume Garot said he wanted to ensure that all contentious products had been removed.

Romania is investigating claims one of its abattoirs is responsible.

The present festival is also a Maha Kumbh Mela, which comes round only once every 144 years.

Hindus believe a festival dip at Sangam - at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers - will cleanse sins and help bring salvation.
'Too many people'

"There were too many people on the platforms. The station was overcrowded," Mr Bansal told reporters on Monday morning.

"Attempts are being made to decongest the railway station which is still overcrowded," he said.

The minister denied reports that the stampede was caused after the railing of a pedestrian bridge leading to platform number six collapsed.

Mr Bansal said the railways had made "adequate arrangements well in advance" to deal with the passenger rush during the festival and that in addition to "the 112 routine trains, we also ran 69 special trains on Sunday".

"Our effort is to make arrangement to take people out of Allahabad for which we are making efforts to press into service more special trains from Allahabad," he added.

'Learning lessons'

In the UK, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to update MPs on the latest developments in the scandal.

He has already said a moratorium on EU meat imports, which has been called for, was not allowed under EU rules.

The controversy surrounding contamination of meat products has also affected firms in the Irish Republic and Poland.

Last month, Irish food inspectors announced they had found horsemeat in some burgers stocked by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland and Lidl.

Seven French supermarket chains - Auchan, Casino, Carrefour, Cora, Monoprix, Grand Jury and Picard - have already withdrawn some of their frozen meat-based meals, including lasagne, from the shelves.

"We want to get the latest from the whole range of people involved in the food chain on what has happened and start to learn the first lessons," Mr Garot told Agence France Presse.

He said producers, food processors, distributers, supermarkets and representatives from the food industry are expected to attend Monday's meeting.

An initial investigation by French officials revealed that French firm Poujol bought the frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, France's Junior Minister for Consumer Goods, Benoit Hamon, said in a statement on Sunday.

The trader had, in turn, received it from a Dutch food trader, and that Dutch company had purchased the meat from two Romanian slaughterhouses.

Poujol supplied the meat to a Luxembourg factory owned by French group Comigel.

The meat was then sold under the Sweden-based brand, Findus, which has said it has been misled by its Romanian meat supplier.

The food giant has already withdrawn ready meals in France and Sweden after it emerged that its frozen beef lasagne sold in Britain contained up to 100% horsemeat.

Responding to the food scandal, the director of Findus France, Matthieu Lambeaux, said in a statement the company would file a legal complaint on Monday.

"We thought we had certified French beef in our products. But in reality, we were supplied with Romanian horsemeat. We have been deceived," Mr Lambeaux said.

The EU commissioner for agriculture is also due to meet Romania's foreign minister on Monday.

The Romanian President Traian Basescu has warned that his country could face potential export restrictions and lose credibility "for many years" if his country's butchers are revealed to be the root of the problem.

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