Saturday, January 19, 2013

Horse on the Menu

I've always been very suspicious of 'value' burgers, meat pies, sausages etc. Ever since I visited a prawn farm in West Scotland in the 1980s and saw all the seconds being tunched up in great vats into what looked like stinking sewage, I've liked as much certainty as possible about ingredients in what I eat. Have eaten only whole prawns ever since. It has come as no surprise to me at all that there are bits of horse in some 'value' beefburgers. I suspect there's quite a bit of other stuff in there that I wouldn't fancy on its own either. What really happened last week was that new investigative techniques, just as it did with Lance Armstrong, exposed the truth of what's been happening. What we don't know is the scale to which its being going on.

Lets look at what actually happened - at least as far as I can make it out. The Irish take food safety and authenticity very seriously indeed - and search out deceptions. Over recent years the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has discovered 'farmed salmon' being sold as 'wild salmon, Chinese honey being sold off as Irish honey, imported chicken fillets pumped up with water, and pollock being used in 'cod and chips' and a lot else besides. Last year the Food Safety Authority of Ireland raised the bar by setting up a 'food fraud task force', with access to new technologies. It was this task force which discovered traces of horse and pig meat in frozen beef products - with a lot more than a trace of horse in one case. The discoveries were the result of DNA testing, normally used to link criminals with the scene of the crime. Lots of these products were exported to the UK. Personally I think its wrong to criticise the Irish - certainly until we know a lot more. The Irish Gov't should be congratulated on raising the standards of food testing to a new higher level, and for being prepared to not keep it secret. We need to raise standards throughout Europe.

We do not know the full story yet, and cannot draw final conclusions. We don't know where the product (probably a filler of some sort) came from. We do not know whether the presence of horse meat was inadvertent or deliberate (which could well mean its criminal). And we have absolutely no idea of the scale of the problem, or for how long its been going on. And since there is no suggestion that the 'beefburgers' are in any way unfit for human consumption, it seems a dreadful waste that 10,000,000 burgers have been dumped. Ironically, there was a World Hunger seminar taking place in Dublin last week!'. There's nothing wrong with eating horses, or dogs or donkeys or squirrels. Its just that we Brits don't do it much. I've eaten horse myself, but not knowingly. It was on a rugby trip and tasted OK as I recall - though I admit that at the time anything would have tasted OK.

Every food retailer could be affected by this 'scandal' - and I was much impressed by the supermarkets swift response to clear their shelves (if shockingly wasteful). They know that customers must have confidence that what they are buying is what they think they are buying - or as the PM would say "what it says on the tin". British farmers are appalled to see the reputation of beef products so damaged, especially since the problem seems to elsewhere that the UK and Ireland. There should be an opportunistic 'Buy Local, Buy British' campaign. Personally, I see this as a serious commercial and 'foods standards' crisis - rather than a 'health' crisis. In the way I stared eating beef again when BSE struck, its now my patriotic duty to eat British beefburgers - and I suppose I could try a bit of horse (though Mrs D, as a horse lover wouldn't be willing to cook it).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even the seagulls turned their beaks up at the 30 tons of Irish beef!burgers dumped into Holyhead harbour by angry welsh farmers in November 1997.Total vindication - the truth will out eventually !!! HFD Anglesey