Swiss food giant Nestle has become the latest retailer hit by Europe's horsemeat scandal, announcing it is removing pasta meals from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain due to contamination.
"Our tests have found traces of horse DNA in two products," the world's biggest food company said in its statement Monday.
"The mislabelling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us," it added. Therefore the company is "voluntarily removing" two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain immediately.
The tainted products breached the one percent threshold the British Food Safety Agency uses to indicate likely adulteration or gross negligence, Nestle said.
A Nestle frozen meat product for catering businesses, produced in France, will also be withdrawn from sale.
Nestle apologised to consumers while assuring that "actions being taken to deal with this issue will result in higher standards and enhanced traceability."
Concerns about horsemeat first emerged in mid-January when Irish authorities found traces of horse in beefburgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco and Aldi.
The scandal then intensified when French firm Comigel alerted Findus this month to the presence of horsemeat in the meals it had made for the food giant and which were on sale in Britain.
Since then, supermarket chains have removed millions of "beef" products as tests are carried out to detect horsemeat, which is eaten in many European countries but is considered taboo in Britain.
Horsemeat in "beef" ready-to-eat meals had already been confirmed in products found in Britain, Ireland, France, Austria, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. Most of the mislabelled products were made by Comigel.
With Italy and Spain now also tainted by the horsemeat scandal it appears that most of the continent has been affected.
The French firm that sparked a Europe-wide food scandal by allegedly passing off 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef was allowed Monday to resume production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals.
But Spanghero, whose horsemeat found its way into 4.5 million "beef" products sold across Europe, will no longer be allowed to stock frozen meat, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told AFP.
Upholding that ban means it cannot act as middleman between abattoirs and food-processing companies, the situation which allegedly allowed it to change labels on horsemeat and sell it on as beef.
The firm's sanitary licence was suspended last Thursday after it was accused of passing off huge quantities of mislabelled meat over a period of six months.
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