Source: AFP | 2013-2-25 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
HORSEMEAT containing a drug potentially harmful to humans has probably entered the food chain, as Italy became the latest country to be drawn into the contaminated meat scandal.
In Germany meanwhile, a minister suggested giving products mislabelled as beef products but actually containing horsemeat to the poor.
Several horse carcasses containing the drug Phenylbutazone have probably ended up being eaten by consumers, a French agriculture ministry spokesman said.
Phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory treatment for horses which is potentially harmful to humans and so is banned for consumption.
Britain alerted Paris that six tainted carcasses had been exported to France in January, but by that time the meat had already been processed.
France's Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on Saturday 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 with the wider horsemeat scandal since the meat had not been disguised as beef.
But the news added a new dimension to the scandal.
The row over mislabelled meat erupted in Europe in January after horsemeat was initially found in so-called beef ready-made meals and burgers in Britain and Ireland.
Since then, supermarkets across the continent have pulled prepared meals from their shelves, with effects felt as far away as Hong Kong where an imported brand of lasagne has been withdrawn from stores.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 2,400 "lasagne bolognese" packages produced by a central Italian company that had used meat from suppliers based in the northern part of the country.
The tests were carried out as part of checks by police on 121 brands across the country.
In Germany, Development Minister Dirk Niebel suggested handing out mislabelled food products taken off the shelves because they contained horsemeat to the poor.
"More than 800 million people are dying of hunger in the world," he told Saturday's edition of Bild newspaper. "And unfortunately in Germany there are also people for whom it is difficult financially, even for food ... I think that we can't here in Germany throw away good food."
But Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed the idea as "absurd."
During a visit to an agricultural show in Paris on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande said he would push for mandatory labelling of meat in ready-made meals.