Police have arrested 21 people in raids on the horsemeat industry across southern France on suspicion that horses used to develop medicines were sold fraudulently for food, it is being reported.

The Reuters news agency is reporting that about 100 officers along with inspectors from the national veterinary brigade took part in dawn raids in 11 districts on Monday morning.

French consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said the operation stemmed from stepped-up monitoring of the industry after a French meat processing firm was implicated in the scandal earlier this year over mislabelled frozen meals containing horsemeat.

The horses were used by pharmaceutical company Sanofi to incubate antibodies to manufacture serums for everything from rabies to snake bites, and they were in good health but not certified as fit for human consumption, according to a company spokesman. He said the company had discharged about 200 horses in the past three years.

He said the firm was cooperating with the investigation.

French Radio stations said the horses were sold to traders suspected of falsifying veterinary documents so they could be used in the food chain. Those detained included meat producers, traders and veterinarians, according to Reuters.

Last week an interim report by Professor Chris Elliott into his investigation made a number of recommendations for the UK Government and industry about tackling the growing problem of 'food crime', including the establishment of a Food Crime Unit within the FSA.

(Source: farmersguardian.com)