MEAT from dozens of horses that were used by a French pharmaceutical firm to develop serums against rabies and other diseases is believed to have reached the food chain in France it has emerged.
Police arrested 21 people, including meat dealers, butchers and vets, in various locations in the south of France as part of a vast probe into the allegations.
The raids followed a tip-off which said that around 200 horses – including at least 60 that had been owned by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur – had been sold to abattoirs since May 2011 with falsified veterinary papers.
More than 100 officers swooped on several Sanofi offices and at various abattoirs, including one in Gerona in northern Spain.
Among those arrested were four vets and several meat dealers, including one based in Narbonne, in southwestern France who is suspected of being the ringleader of the illicit trade, police sources said.
A computer programmer was also arrested on suspicion of doctoring the horses’ digital health certificates to make them read “fit for human consumption”.
The latest arrests came months after a Europe-wide health scare earlier this year in which horse meat was found in millions of ready meals labelled as containing only beef.
While the previous scandal, involved fraud, Benoit Hamon, the French consumer affairs minister, said the latest episode was potentially more worrying due to sanitary concerns.