Dutch search 100 businesses for horsemeat: Official

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Dutch government's food and consumer watchdog has searched and carried out tests for horsemeat at around 100 businesses, as Europe's tainted beef scandal deepens, a top official said on Thursday.

Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Sharon Dijksma said officials of the Dutch Food and Goods Authority (NVWA) probed unnamed businesses across the country, taking samples from ground beef and other foods which contained meat products.

"It is unacceptable that consumers are deliberately being misled by those using it to their own advantage," Dutch news agency ANP quoted her as saying.

Ms Dijksma said NVWA officials also checked the labelling on meat products at 40 businesses.

So far, officials have stopped one company in the south-western city of Breda from trading in meat products, Ms Dijksma said, without giving a name.

The NVWA launched a probe into Dutch meat products on Monday in Europe's spiralling horsemeat scandal.

British officials revealed on Thursday that the potentially harmful drug Phenylbutazone, a painkiller for horses, had been found in horse carcasses sent to France.

Supermarkets across Europe, including in the Netherlands, have pulled millions of frozen ready meals from the shelves since last week, after tests revealed that large quantities of horsemeat had made their way into products labelled as beef.

The scandal has exposed a sprawling web of abattoirs and meat suppliers - all of which deny fraudulently passing horsemeat off as beef - in countries including Britain, France, Luxembourg and Romania.

The European Union's (EU) crime-fighting agency Europol said on Thursday that Britain has asked it to coordinate an international probe into how the contamination became so widespread.

In Britain where, unlike continental European countries, eating horse is taboo, police said three men suspected of passing horsemeat off as beef were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of fraud.

After emergency talks in Brussels on Wednesday, the EU's health commissioner Tonio Borg said the bloc was calling on all of its 27 member states to carry out DNA tests on beef products.

The European Commission also urged checks for Phenylbutazone in all European establishments handling raw horsemeat.