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Nestle withdraws pasta meals as horsemeat scandal spreads

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Nestle has removed beef pasta meals sold under its Buitoni brand from sale in Italy and Spain after finding traces of horsemeat, becoming the latest victim of a food scandal still spreading across Europe.

The world's biggest food company, which said as recently as last week its products had not been affected by the scare, said the decision to withdraw the products came after tests over the weekend showed traces of horse DNA in batches of meat used to prepare the meals.

Nestle spokesman Chris Hogg said on Tuesday the withdrawals would have no material financial impact on the company. "These are chilled pasta products that do not have a long shelf life so there are very low levels of inventory," he said.

Hogg said Nestle was not attempting to estimate the level of impact the recall would have on the reputation of its brand.

The scandal of horsemeat in products labeled as beef has spread across Europe since last month, prompting product withdrawals, consumer concerns and government investigations into the continent's complex food-processing chains.

A fifth of adults said they had been buying less meat as a result of the discovery, according to a poll conducted by research company Consumer Intelligence and published on Monday.

Swiss-based Nestle withdrew two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini, in Italy and Spain. Lasagnes à la Bolognaise Gourmandes, a frozen product for catering businesses produced in France, will also be pulled, it said.

The group said tests had found more than 1 percent horse DNA in the products. It was not immediately clear whether the tests had been carried out by Nestle or by a third party.

"We have informed the authorities accordingly," Nestle said in a statement. "There is no food safety issue."

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