France partially renews licence for horsemeat firm

France on Monday partially renewed the sanitary licence of a meat-processing firm that was suspended after it was accused of passing off 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef and sparking a Europe-wide food scandal.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told AFP that Spanghero would be allowed to resume its production of minced meat, sausages and ready-to-eat meals but would not be allowed to stock frozen meats.

Spanghero's licence to handle meat was suspended last Thursday after the French government said an initial inquiry showed it had knowingly sold 750 tonnes of horsemeat mislabelled as beef over a period of six months.

That horsemeat found its way into 4.5 million "beef" products that were sold by 28 different companies in 13 European countries, said the findings of the probe by the DGCCRF anti-fraud office.

Le Foll said the results of a full inquiry into the activities of Spanghero -- where veterinary experts have been carrying out inspections at its plant in the southwestern town of Castelnaudary -- would be ready by Friday.

The criminal investigation by the DGCCRF anti-fraud office into the wider horsemeat scandal is continuing.

Spanghero on Friday again insisted it was not responsible for the mislabelling that has seen supermarket chains across the continent pull millions of suspect food products from their shelves.

"I don't know who is behind this, but it is not us," said Spanghero boss Barthelemy Aguerre, adding that the accusations were putting his 300 workers' jobs on the line. "I will prove our innocence."

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 intensified earlier this month when Comigel -- a French frozen meal maker which bought 500 tonnes of mislabelled horsemeat from Spanghero -- alerted Findus to the presence of horsemeat in the meals it had made for the food giant and which were on sale in Britain.

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