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Horsemeat linked to new food scandal seized in Belgium

AFP-JIJI

Belgian health authorities on Friday reported the seizure of 16.8 tons of horse meat, part of it linked to a scandal in France.

France informed Belgium a week ago of the delivery to a Belgian firm of 17.5 tons of falsely labeled meat from horses that were used by scientists to help produce anti-rabies and other serums.

Police made a score of arrests earlier this month in southern France following a tipoff that 200 horses, including 60 owned by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, had ended up in abattoirs after their veterinary certificates had been falsified.

Belgian food safety agency AFSCA said in a statement that the meat had been integrated into “a larger consignment of 82 tons of horse meat.”

Of the 82 tons, which included both regular horse meat and horse meat carrying false papers, 63.6 tons was “distributed across all of Europe,” in particular in France and the Netherlands, AFSCA said.

A total of 1.6 tons was sold as fresh meat in Belgium in February and March. The remainder was frozen and was seized this past week.

French prosecutors have said that though the meat was falsely labeled and should not have been sold, there was no evidence it was harmful to human health.

The case follows a Europe-wide health scare earlier this year when horse meat was found in millions of ready-to-eat meals labeled as containing only beef.

Sanofi, which has been cleared of any wrongdoing, has said the horses were used to provide blood for the manufacture of serums against tetanus and rabies and stressed they had not been used for drugs testing.

Eating horsemeat is regarded as taboo in some European countries, notably Britain, but is still widespread in Belgium, France, Spain and Italy, although consumption is in decline.