The EU Commissioner for Health and Consumers, Tonio Borg, declared the horse meat scandal a ‘food fraud’ issue and not one of ‘food safety’. His statement was made in response to the news that horse DNA was found in up to 5% of beef products randomly tested across the EU.
I’m not sure it’s possible to separate ‘food fraud’ from ‘food safety’ quite so easily. I also suspect the horse meat scandal is far from over.
The European Commission is in the process of implementing an Action Plan. The British government also announced a ‘wide-ranging’ strategic review of the horse meat scandal, including how the Food Standards Agency (FSA) managed the crisis.
The horse meat scandal represents our worst fears about how animals are reared, transported and slaughtered for food.
The undercover investigation earlier this year revealed horrific treatment of horses at a slaughterhouse in Cheshire. The report was a frightening example of what happens behind closed doors.
Food fraud in the supply chain is as much a problem as food safety.
The way our food is produced has become highly complex. I’m not saying we can return to a bygone age of simplicity. Nevertheless, our food is produced by an increasingly elongated international network of farming interests and agricultural businesses. The food we eat has become a commodity produced, traded and sold on from wholesaler to retailer. This is how meat from horses can be mixed up with meat from cattle. We only find out when someone suspects something is wrong. Accountability is difficult to maintain. It’s becoming seemingly impossible to know what to buy.
This is why I want to ask you to become familiar with the various food labelling schemes. Some of them, quite frankly, I urge you to avoid the products they approve. Other labelling schemes, however, are much more sound.
Click here to learn how to know your labels!
I also ask for your support for the campaign we are leading with the RSPCA, Soil Association and WSPA, called Labelling Matters. If any good can come of the horse meat scandal, it will be a greater awareness of the need for transparency in the food chain. For me, it seems that making it compulsory to tell consumers how their food is produced – putting it on the label – is the least we can do.