As the horsemeat scandal takes yet another twist, the true extent is revealed of the betrayal of consumer trust. That so much horsemeat masquerading as beef could enter the British food chain is staggering enough. It also begs the bigger question of what else is getting into our food without us knowing?
How do we know that meat from religiously slaughtered animals – their throats often cut whilst fully conscious – isn’t getting into the wider food chain?
How do we know that pig meat isn’t getting into non-pork products; something that would be of real concern to some religious communities?
How do we know that pork produced using cruel sow stalls, banned in Britain and partially so in Europe, isn’t being stocked on some supermarket shelves?
How do we know that meat from the offspring of cloned animals isn’t once again in the British food chain, as it was in 2010? After all, there is no requirement to label meat and milk from the offspring of clones. What’s more, the UK government leads the way in opposing any effective European restrictions on cloning.
What we do know is that much of the meat on many supermarket shelves is from factory farmed animals, but consumers are denied real power of choice because it isn’t labelled to say how it was produced.
And there’s another question that no one seems to be asking. The horses that found their way into British burgers and ready meals; how were they killed? Did they end their lives in a state of fear, pain and misery? I suspect we’ll never know. After all, if their meat can slip into our food so widely without us knowing, how will we ever find out how they died?
The scandal raises more questions than answers. What I do know is that urgent action is needed, not least by Government, to start rebuilding public confidence. An obvious first measure would be to introduce compulsory labelling telling consumers how their food was produced. By my reckoning, it’s the least they should do.