Twenty people have been arrested across France over a food scam which allegedly saw horse meat that had been used in animal experiments being sold for human consumption.
Those detained included meat producers, traders and veterinarians.
A spokesman for pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur said it had used the horses to incubate antibodies to manufacture serums for everything from rabies to snake bites, and the horses were not certified as fit for human consumption though they were in good health.
Butchers and traders were said to have been sold the left-over meat from some 200 horses used for vaccine experiments in laboratories run by Sanofi.
The mark-up was allegedly some 300 times what horse dealers had paid for the meat.
France’s Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said the operation stemmed from closer monitoring of the industry after a French meat processing firm was at the centre of a Europe-wide scandal earlier this year involving frozen meals containing horse meat instead of beef.
Under French law, animals involved in medical testing cannot be sold off as food.
Reportedly traders falsified veterinary documents so they could be used in the food chain.