Horsemeat scandal

Is Waitrose trying to tell us something?

Is Waitrose trying to tell us something?

Brands: if you put your name on something, you should bloody well know what it is. — Evan Davis

Industrial meat in the human food chain, 30 to 100 per cent horsemeat.

The supermarkets blame their suppliers, the suppliers blame their suppliers, and so it goes on and on down the supply chain.

USA is a major supplier of horsemeat to the EU. Where do people think it goes?

Horses sell for 10 euros each, the horsemeat from a single horse for 500 euros.

It has been known for at least two years that Ireland has been supplying contaminated horsemeat into the UK food chain

If you buy industrial meat, then what do you expect? If you want quality meat, then buy from a good local butcher.

Talking to butchers, this scandal has been known of for some time. I was told of suppliers, who only later appeared in the news, I was told of unscrupulous butchers who go down to the docks to buy crates of meat of unknown origin, unknown provenance, of meat sold as British that has been processed in the UK, but is not British.

When supermarkets demand of their suppliers burgers at 4 pence a burger, corners are going to be cut.

When supermarkets order from a supplier, a supplier who installs all the capital equipment to meet he contract, then two years later they demand a new contract with lower pricers, what is the supplier to do, turn down the contract abandon the capital investment and file for bankruptcy, or tun to cheaper suppliers, putting downward price pressure all the way down the supply chain?

When a shopper buys a Findus beef lasagne in a supermarket, they expect it to have been made by Findus, not Findus is merely a marketing company that buys from someone else, who in turn sources from someone else.

If I go to a local butcher and buy burgers, he will have made them, he will have minced the beef, he will know what part of the cow it has come from, which cow, and where the cow has come from.

When Martha Payne and family sit down to enjoy a roast dinner, they know where it has come from, if pork or lamb, it will have come off their own smallholding, from animals they have reared, that the have taken to be slaughtered.

In the UK there is full traceability on meat. One of the positive outcomes of the BSE crisis a decade or so ago.

When, as I did yesterday, walk to Heighington and buy Lincolnshire sausages, I do so from a local butcher of some repute. I do so with the assurance that he has made the sausages, he knows which pig they have come from, and were I to ask, he would be able to tell me where the pig came from.

Free range chickens are not running around in a field, as many think. No longer in a small cage, they are now in a large shed, dimly lit, with thousands of other chickens. Marina Lewycka describes the disgusting conditions in these poultry sheds and at the poultry processing factory in her excellent novel Two Caravans. If you want to know why chickens are contaminated with salmonella, then read Two Caravans.

The supermarkets have very tight control over their suppliers, they know full well what is going on, the corners cut, animal welfare, working conditions, use of illegal immigrants, illegal pesticides, it is simply that they choose to turn a blind eye, maximising profit comes first. The same supermarkets that source their clothes from sweatshops.

When supermarkets exercise Draconian control over their suppliers, when they reject fruit and vegetables because a millimetre or so over or under size, for minor blemishes, are we really to believe that they did not know that their beef products were 30 to 100 per cent horsemeat?

A couple of years ago there was a move to pass a resolution at the Tesco AGM to improve animal welfare for chickens. It was voted out, greed came first.

Yesterday the boss of Morrisons blatantly lied on BBC News when he said they did not have the problem. He claimed they sourced their meat from their own abattoirs. I was at a new Morrisons last year on the day it opened. I had a query on their meat. I was referred to their supplier who happened to be there overseeing operations. The supplier was not Morrisons.

Spineless Ed Miliband has been making his usual childish public school utterance, trying to score cheap party political points. The evil ConDem government can be blamed for many ills, but this crisis is not of their making, it is the greed of the supermarkets.

Yes, we can criticise the ConDem government for not acting sooner, we have a useless Food Standards Agency. FSA was established in the wake of the BSE crisis. It was to act for the consumer, it acts for the food industry. I am surprised Cobra has not met. I am surprised no ban on meat imports has been implemented. When the BSE crisis erupted, most countries quite rightly put in place an immediate ban on British beef imports.

The FSA had its own food authentication unit. It was closed due to cuts and pressure from the food industry.

It was Ireland that detected the scandal of meat contamination, not the FSA. If I, from a brief conversation with a couple of butchers, can found out what was going on in the meat industry, why not the FSA?

What of local environmental health officers, what of trading standards? Was every useless overpaid jobsworth asleep on the job?

We should not be shipping meat across borders. Each country should have it own policy of food sovereignty, food security.

It is not true there are no health risks. If we do not know what is in industrial processed meats, we cannot say no health risk.

Medication for animals that are part of the human food chain is strictly controlled. Not so for horses who are not part of the human food chain.

The checks that are now taking place are for the presence of horsemeat, they are not for medication, not for diseases the horse may have been carrying.

There are no tests planned for the industrial meat supplied to schools and hospitals.

Contaminated meat is being imported, then being exported for testing, as the UK lacks the facilities for such a wide scale testing programme.

Where we can criticise the ConDem government is for getting into bed with the food industry and resisting calls for tighter regulation. But then Labour deserve exactly the same criticism.

There is also the failure of local councils to act. As soon as this crisis broke, why were Environmental Health Officers not out, first checking McDonald’s, then the many fast food outlets, then the Chinese and Indian restaurants and takeways. Look at the reports and ratings from Environmental Health inspections, and these are always the first to fail.

Only a few years ago we had criminal gangs, buying contaminated meat, using industrial bleach to remove the dye that indicated it was unfit for human consumption, then released into the human food chain. Why have no lessons been learnt? The BSE crisis was as a result of corners being cut in the food industry, contaminated meat that should have been incinerated, being fed to animals that were part of the human food chain.

There appears to be little difference between meat suppliers and money launderers. I would not buy meat from a dodgy market trader, so why do supermarkets by meat from a dodgy international market trader?

There is no such thing as cheap food. All we do is externalise the costs.

If you want to be sure of what you are eating, then go to a local butcher of repute or buy off a farmer on a farmers market, or from a farm shop.

Or go to somewhere like The Barn and eat falafel burgers, guaranteed free of horse meat.

We should not lose sight there is another side to this story, horses being trafficked across Europe, often in appalling conditions. Let us tackle both the trade in horse meat and the trade in horses.

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