The meat processor accused by French authorities of selling 750 tonnes of mislabelled horsemeat has hit the headlines again, after illicit mechanically separated sheepmeat from the UK was found on its premises.

According to French media reports, 57 tonnes of frozen British sheepmeat in two batches were found at Spanghero in south-west France. French veterinary inspectors said the meat, which was labelled as lamb mince and intended for use in sausages, had been produced using mechanical separation, a technique not allowed to be used on sheep and beef in the European Union since the BSE crisis. 

Spanghero denied responsibility for the illicit meat, and said it had been deceived by its supplier, Dutch meat trader Draap Trading. Draap is also being accused by Spanghero of supplying it with horsemeat labelled as beef in the context of the horsemeat scandal.

French food minister Guillaume Garot said it was not possible to tell if any Spanghero products made with illicit MSM had been consumed, and ordered a product recall as a precaution.

It is not clear at this stage whether the French authorities believe the mechanical separation itself happened in the UK or whether the sheepmeat used was of UK origin but the mechanical separation took place elsewhere.

In February, Spanghero was accused by French authorities of selling horsemeat labelled as beef to Comigel, the French manufacturer that made the Findus frozen lasagne as well as own-label products for retailers around Europe. Spanghero has always maintained its innocence and claimed it had been defrauded by its own suppliers. It filed a lawsuit against persons unknown in a French court at the beginning of March.

Production at Spanghero was temporarily suspended as part of the French investigations, but the company was allowed to partially reopen in mid-February.