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A London-based food import company has been fined £5,000 after pork sausages were found to contain nearly 50% horsemeat.

It is the first case of its kind in the UK since the horsemeat scandal broke in January 2013.

The Kent Trading Standards officers discovered the contamination of the Bulgarian-cured sausages, in a store in Dartford, during spot checks last year.

Under UK law it is the supplier, and not the shop selling the product, which is liable for prosecution.

Expo Foods Ltd, based in Enfield, admitted breaching the Food Safety Act before Dartford magistrates yesterday (Thursday 2 October).

Prosecuting on behalf of Kent County Council Trading Standards, Sarah Beasley told magistrates: “Expo had relied on the brand name rather than doing any testing themselves.

“It is acknowledged that Expo is a relatively small company and has more than 2,000 product lines and cannot afford to test them all.

“But no matter how large or how small the company may be, customers must have confidence in the food they buy and reassurance that it is safe.”

The company has subsequently removed the product from sale and has made changes to its supply network.

After the hearing, Richard Strawson, from Kent Trading Standards, said officers were concerned the product was found on sale.

He said: “We are aware of the sensitivities among the public concerning eating horsemeat and therefore feel our actions were necessary.”

The firm was also ordered to pay £2,500 in costs.