PARIS – Spanghero, a French meat processor, is under investigation by French authorities after 57 tonnes of illegal mechanically separated sheep meat was found on the company's premises, according to French media reports. It is not clear if the products made it into the food supply.

Veterinary inspectors said the meat was mechanically separated from the bone, a process the European Union banned in 2001. Critics of the technology claim it risks bone fragments or bone marrow getting into the meat, raising the risk of contamination by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The meat was intended for use in sausages, and was labeled as lamb mince, according to news reports.

Spanghero already is in the hot seat after French authorities in February accused the company of knowingly mislabeling horse meat as beef and selling it to large distributors in frozen meals. The company denied responsibility for the illegal sheep meat, and denied allegations about knowingly selling horse meat labeled as beef.

The meat was imported from the United Kingdom via Draap Trading Ltd. in Cyprus. French authorities also are investigating Draap Trading. Spanghero claims to have been deceived by the company.

French authorities temporarily suspended Spanghero's operations in February before allowing the company to resume production of ground meat, sausage and other products. Spanghero's frozen meat storage operations remain shutdown, according to news reports.