(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Management at a French meat processing plant here, which has been temporarily closed on accusations of having peddled horsemeat for beef, on Friday denied any misconduct and claimed it acted in good faith in selling meat products to clients.
The Spanghero processing plant was closed down on French government orders Thursday after it was alleged that horsemeat was re-labelled there as beef and then sold on to be transformed into frozen or ready-to-eat meals and wound up on supermarket shelves in a dozen European countries.
Speaking on "BFM TV" here, Spanghero manager Barthelemy Aguerre said he would "prove our innocence" in the scandal and he denied his plant had re-labelled meat products.
He said his company was not behind the scandal, a view echoed by other executives at Spanghero.
The origin of those meat products was traced to a horsemeat supplier in Romania and the meat travelled through a third party entity in Cyprus and then reportedly arrived via a Dutch middleman agent before being delivered to Spanghero.
The French company then prepared meat for delivery and transformation by a food processing company called Comigel, which processed meals for dozens of major frozen food suppliers like "Findus," which has been badly hit by the affair.
An investigation is underway to determine the chain of events, but the economic cost for companies supplying ready-made, frozen meals is huge. Thousands of such meals, made from hundreds of tons of horsemeat, have been already withdrawn from supermarket and hypermarket shelves and freezers.
Horsemeat DNA has now been discovered in beef casseroles, lasagna and other beef dishes in 12 European countries as far away as Norway and Austria, but also closer to France, in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Tests in Britain have also been reported as positive.
The European Union has called for wider testing of food products as part of an ongoing investigation.
If Spanghero is guilty, management is likely to face criminal proceedings but the profession of innocence Friday will force investigators to look at other possible sources of the fraud.