Give horsemeat-tainted food to poor - German minister

Dirk Niebel said it would be irresponsible to throw away palatable and safe food

Germany's development minister has suggested that horsemeat mislabelled as beef should be distributed to the poor.

Dirk Niebel said he supported the proposal by a member of the governing CDU party, and concluded: "We can't just throw away good food."

The opposition dismissed the idea, but a priest said it should be considered.

Meanwhile, traces of horse DNA have been found in six tonnes of minced beef and 2,400 packs of lasagne Bolognese seized from a company in Italy.

The products were packaged by Italian group Primia, based near Bologna.

The health ministry said Primia had used meat from another company in Brescia and originally supplied by two other companies, also based there.

It is the first positive test in Italy since the scandal erupted last month.

Start Quote

To throw away food that could be consumed without risk is equally bad as false labelling and cannot be a solution”

End Quote Prelate Bernhard Felmberg Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)

Earlier on Saturday, the Italian authorities said they had found no traces of horsemeat in beef products seized this week from the Swiss food giant Nestle.

On Monday, Nestle announced that it was withdrawing two types of beef pasta meals from supermarkets in Italy and Spain after tests revealed traces of horse DNA.

A problem was identified with a supplier in Germany, H J Schypke, it said.

Two other German companies, Dreistem-Konserven and Vossko, have been accused of manufacturing products containing horsemeat. Both have also blamed their own suppliers.

On Friday, Germany's consumer affairs ministry announced that it had now found traces of horse DNA in 67 of 830 food products tested.

'Absurd'

On Saturday, a prominent member of Germany's governing CDU party, Hartwig Fischer, told Bild newspaper that products tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor.

The BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin says others have echoed the sentiment, including Mr Niebel, who said there were 800 million people in the world who were hungry.

Meat scandal

  • In mid-January, Irish food inspectors announced they had found horsemeat in some burgers stocked by UK supermarket chains
  • Subsequently, up to 100% horsemeat found in several ranges of prepared frozen food in Britain, France and Sweden
  • Concerns that a drug used to treat horses, and which may be harmful to humans, could be in food chain
  • Meat traced from France through Cyprus and The Netherlands to Romanian abattoirs
  • Investigation suggests adulteration was not accidental but the work of a criminal conspiracy

"Even in Germany, unfortunately there are people for whom it is financially tight, even for food. I think that we can't just throw away good food here in Germany."

The opposition has dismissed the idea as "absurd" and an insult to poor people, our correspondent adds, but Prelate Bernhard Felmberg, the senior representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has backed the proposal.

"We as a Church find the throw-away mentality in our society concerning. How and whether to distribute the products in question would have to be examined," the priest said.

"But to throw away food that could be consumed without risk is equally bad as false labelling and cannot be a solution."

Meanwhile in French President Francois Hollande visited the annual Farm Show in Paris, in an apparent bid to restore confidence in the French food industry.

The country has been at the heart of the scandal, after it emerged that tonnes of horsemeat from Romanian abattoirs had been processed into ready-made meals in France.

French President Francois Hollande, right, strokes a cow as he starts his visit to the annual Agricultural Salon fair in Paris, Saturday President Hollande showed his support for French agriculture

Mr Hollande said he would push for continent-wide labelling rules on the meat in prepared foods.

"There is a need for traceability, that is what I want from talks on a European level," Mr Hollande said.

Earlier, three major French food companies agreed to use only French beef in their products.

Findus - one of the firms at the heart of the scandal - and retailers Carrefour and Intermarche announced at the Farm Show that they would start using labels saying "100% French" from March.

European agriculture ministers are expected to discuss origin labelling and meat traceability at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

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