Now we know we can add horse meat in beef lasagne to a long list of food scandals. A litany that already includes mad cow disease, salmonella in eggs, antibiotics-resistant superbugs, etc..
Consumers feel betrayed.
Do we really know how our food is produced? Can we ever know what is in the food we eat? Are farmers and food producers to be trusted?
Today’s scandal of horse meat in beef products is likely the tip of the iceberg. There are real and deep-rooted problems sitting below the surface of our broken food system. And the bottom line is that we clearly, all too often, just don’t know what’s in our food or how it’s produced.
Beef lasagne products removed from supermarket shelves have been found to be almost entirely horse meat. The Food Standards Agency reports the product was produced by a French supplier.
Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, told BBC News: “This is an appalling situation. I have to say that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved”.
She added: “We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne, and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of significant levels of horse meat”.
You’ve got to wonder why companies didn’t make damned sure the beef in their products wasn’t anything other than beef. And you’ve also got to wonder why they didn’t make sure horse meat wasn’t included in a product destined for the UK market. It’s breathtaking how Britain’s cultural taboo of eating horse meat has been held with such apparent contempt.
Over the last 18 months, I have been writing a book on industrial meat production with Sunday Times journalist, Isabel Oakeshott. We explored the tentacles that reach out across the world and affect the food on our plate. I discovered that there is just so much that goes on that we’re just not told about.
Regardless of what anyone eats, there is now a very serious need for real transparency in how our food is produced.
Compassion believes our food system must have real integrity. We need to absolutely know what it is that we are eating and how it was produced. And I don’t just mean for higher quality food products. We must value food quality over industrialised products, or at least be given the information to make a choice.
That is why we need to urgently revisit the issue of labelling. We’re calling for labelling on all animal produce and ingredients in the European Union. We want the labels to be simple and clear in conveying how the food was produced. Without it, there is little chance of consumers being able to properly exercise their right to choose; and very little hope of getting true transparency in our food system.