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Germany announces first suspicious case in horsemeat scandal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

German officials said Wednesday they suspected food may have been delivered to the country mislabelled as beef when it contained horsemeat, amid a widening scandal in Europe.

German authorities received on Tuesday evening a warning about "possibly mislabelled products containing horsemeat" via a European alert system, the food, agriculture and consumer protection ministry said in a statement.

"There is a suspicion that mislabelled products were also delivered to Germany," the ministry said.

The products, which included lasagne, were delivered to a processing centre in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) but further products, firms and regions could also be affected, the federal ministry cautioned.

Authorities in NRW "are currently examining whether all products have already been withdrawn from the market. The supervisory authorities are also checking whether there is actually horsemeat in the products."

A spokeswoman from the ministry told a regular government news conference earlier Wednesday that tests so far carried out on products before this latest suspected case had all proved negative.

The minister responsible, Ilse Aigner, told reporters on Wednesday that the scandal must be cleared up "quickly and completely."

"What is on the packet must be in the packet -- consumers in the EU must be able to rely on that," she said.

"If customers are evidently being systematically deceived, consequences must be drawn," added the minister.

Officials in NRW state said earlier that documents indicated the products had been delivered via a distributor in Luxembourg "which is suspected of horsemeat labelling breaches".

They said in a written statement that they believed deliveries had taken place between November and January.

However as a precautionary measure, German supermarket chains Kaiser's Tengelmann and Real have taken frozen lasagne off the shelves.

European Union farm ministers are due to hold crisis talks in Brussels later to agree a response after France became the second EU nation following Britain to find horsemeat labelled as beef in frozen food.

kjm-ric/aro/rl

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130213/germany-announces-first-suspicious-case-horsemeat-scandal-0