DELI FARE: A butcher prepares horsemeat in his horse butchery shop in Nice, France. Horsemeat is traditionally prized by many consumers in EU countries. Picture: REUTERS
DELI FARE: A butcher prepares horsemeat in his horse butchery shop in Nice, France. Horsemeat is traditionally prized by many consumers in EU countries. Picture: REUTERS

GLOBAL frozen-food brand Findus, which sells 17 products via retail outlets in South Africa, has defended its products, following the discovery of horsemeat in its packaged frozen lasagnas, among other companies’ products, in UK supermarkets.

"The South African Findus beef teriyaki ready-made meal contains no horsemeat, as found in Findus lasagne in the UK," Findus’s representative in South Africa, Felix Ratheb, said on Thursday.

Mr Ratheb said that of the 17 Findus products sold in South Africa, 10 were vegetable. Of the seven ready-made meals, only the teriyaki meal contained beef.

"We thought we should reassure our South African customers that we adhere to South African regulations, particularly the traceability of product suppliers," he said.

Findus said the beef used in its teriyaki meal was sourced from Brazil and supplied in frozen strips to its factory in Sweden. The factory in Brazil is fully accredited by South Africa’s Department of Agriculture.

The company said all its products in South Africa were supplied by Findus Sweden and produced in its own factories in that country. "Consequently there is no link to Findus UK, where horsemeat was found in the lasagne range that was produced by a co-packer in Luxemburg, Comigel."

British authorities have tried to trace products to determine where horsemeat entered the food supply chain, but the series of connections between retailer and slaughterhouse is complex.

It was reported on Thursday that although the frozen beef lasagnas were from the Swedish Findus brand, the meals had been prepared by a company called Comigel, which is based in France but has factories in Luxembourg.

French investigators also discovered Comigel had received the offending meat from another French supplier, Spanghero, which in turn received the meat from a slaughterhouse in Romania, apparently arranged by traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands.

This prompted the French junior minister for consumer goods, Benoît Hamon, to describe the system as "mafia-like".

Findus has said it is "taking legal advice" on whether to pursue legal action against its supplier.