PARIS (AP) — Meat from horses used in laboratory procedures was sold as fit for human consumption and landed on French dinner tables, investigators said Monday.

Officers from France's National Gendarmerie, accompanied by food safety and veterinary investigators, carried out raids in 11 regions in southern France before dawn, arresting 21 people, according to a statement.

An official, speaking on condition of anonymity because details had not yet been released, said the animals had been used in laboratories — including that of drugmaker Sanofi-Pasteur — and then, instead of being destroyed, ended up in the food chain.

Sanofi told Le Parisien newspaper on Monday that the horses were used to create antibodies against rabies and tetanus among others. The company, which said it cooperated in the investigation, said it has resold about 200 horses in the past three years to vet schools, individuals and professionals.

The company said the lab uses horses for about three years before re-selling them, tagged and certified. It said it does not carry out testing on the animals, only make lifesaving medicines.

Benoit Hamon, France's consumer affairs minister, told RTL radio that it was a question of food safety, rather than simple fraud.

"These were horses that should have ended up at the slaughterhouse, and instead they ended up at the butcher," he said.

Hamon drew a sharp distinction between Monday's raids and a scandal earlier this year in which inexpensive — but edible — horse meat was passed off as beef and sold in supermarkets and restaurants around Europe.

"There are horses that should end up neither on your plate nor at the butcher, and that's the work of this investigation" he said.

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  • France

    Horsemeat is popular in certain types of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/10/horse-trading-exposed-by-_n_2658348.html">French cooking</a>, Reuters reports. The meat was recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/eat-horsemeant-french-chef-martin-leman_n_2695567.html?utm_hp_ref=business">described as 'delicious, like rich beef,'</a> by one French chef.

  • China

    China is one of the world's largest consumers of horsemeat, according to Fox News. The <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/02/15/beyond-taboo-is-horse-meat-really-that-bad-to-eat/">meat is typically dried to eat like a sausage</a> or is served with rice noodles.

  • Kazakhstan

    <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/02/15/beyond-taboo-is-horse-meat-really-that-bad-to-eat/#ixzz2L0SLmgSj">Horsemeat is also popular in Kazakhstan,</a> according to Fox News. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations believes the country is the second largest consumer of horsemeat, behind China.

  • Indonesia

    <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/09/171520528/british-outrage-grows-as-horsemeat-pops-up-in-more-foods">Indonesians make horse satay</a> out of horsemeat, according to NPR.

  • Germany

    German Sauerbraten, or roast, <a href="http://www.germanfoodguide.com/cookingdetail.cfm">is traditionally made with horsemeat</a>.

  • Belgium

    Horsemeat is a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/opinion/19iht-edjohnson.1.13829773.html">"dietary staple" </a>in Belgium, according to the New York Times.

  • Japan

    The Japanese like their horse like they like their sushi: <a href="http://news.discovery.com/animals/what-does-horse-meat-taste-like-130212.htm">sliced thin and eaten raw</a>.

  • Switzerland

    Despite<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/coop-horsemeat-lasagne_n_2678730.html"> Switzerland's involvement in the horsemeat scandal</a>, the meat is still <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/opinion/19iht-edjohnson.1.13829773.html">considered OK to eat </a>in the country, according to the New York Times.

  • Scotland

    <a href="www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4793671/business-on-rise-for-mongolian-restaurant-serving-horse-meat.html">A Mongolian diner in Glasgow, Scotland </a> has seen business boom since recently adding horse burger and horse chips to its menu.