Comigel says 'fooled' by horsemeat, wants compensation

The head of French food producer Comigel said Sunday the company had been fooled by suppliers providing horsemeat as beef and vowed to seek compensation.

"We were victims and it's now clear that the problem was not with Findus nor with Comigel," Erick Lehagre told AFP, after the Nordic branch of frozen food giant Findus said it planned to sue Comigel and its suppliers because horsemeat was found in its products marked as containing beef.

"Our company was fooled," Lehagre said, adding that he had been convinced meat supplied by fellow French firm Spanghero was exclusively beef.

Several ranges of prepared food have been withdrawn in Britain, France and Sweden after it emerged that frozen food companies had been using horsemeat instead of beef in making lasagnes and other pasta dishes, shepherd's pies and moussakas.

Comigel supplied frozen foods giant Findus and other brands with the ready meals, using meat supplied by Spanghero and now traced back to Romania.

Lehagre said the company reacted as soon as the problem was uncovered.

"We immediately blocked all the affected products that we had in stock and advised our clients to withdraw them," he said.

"This represents a very heavy loss for us and we will seek compensation, this is something that will happen in the coming days," he said, without providing further details.

Comigel is based in the northeastern French city of Metz -- though the factory concerned is in Luxembourg -- and distributes products to 16 countries.

Lehagre said it planned to "cooperate in improving processes of traceability, control and procurement" in the industry.

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