Horsemeat scandal reaches Vienna kebab stall

VIENNA Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:35pm IST

A ''no horsemeat'' sign is exhibited alongside meats in the window of Bates Butchers at Market Harborough, central England, February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A ''no horsemeat'' sign is exhibited alongside meats in the window of Bates Butchers at Market Harborough, central England, February 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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VIENNA (Reuters) - The hunt for undeclared horsemeat in food snagged a Vienna kebab stand on Thursday, dealing a blow to the savoury Middle Eastern dishes that are a popular Austrian snack.

Responding to a Europe-wide scandal that has triggered recalls of mislabled products, health inspectors in Austria had already found covert horse flesh in a supermarket beef pasta dish and sausages from the southern province of Carinthia.

But the story hit home with the discovery of equine genetic material in a sample taken from a kebab stand, one of hundreds in the city that have added the Turkish import to their traditional offerings of sausages and leberkaese meat loaf.

The sample was found at a stand in Vienna's western Ottakring neighbourhood on a skewer which was supposed to hold only beef, veal and turkey, the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety said.

Agriculture Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich promised a zero-tolerance approach to such consumer fraud and reiterated he would press for a "food passport" declaring the origins of ingredients in packaged dishes when his European Union counterparts meet next week.

Eating horsemeat is not taboo in Austria, where it is seen as a delicacy - especially in Vienna - but consumers are outraged at being misled about the sources of their food.

"Horsemeat is as much a part of Vienna as the Sachertorte," Margarete Gumprecht, head of a family business that specialises in the iron-rich treat, told Format magazine this month.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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