Horsemeat Scandal

Horsemeat Scandal set to Run and Run

Food Fraud

As the hand wringing, accusation, counter accusation and denial rage on across borders, more and more beef products are found to contain up to 100% horse meat. Supermarkets in the UK, Ireland and across the Euro Zone are having to remove

from shelves tons of ready meals labelled as beef but in some instants containing between 40% to 100% horse meat. Retailers find themselves in a frenzied fight to stem the ebbing tide of consumer confidence.

Dutch prosecutors said food experts raided a meat processing plant as part of a criminal investigation into horsemeat fraud and suspected money laundering.

The company which was not named, in line with Dutch privacy law, is believed to have processed horse meat coming from the Netherlands and Ireland and mixed it with beef then selling it on as pure beef.

The crisis has raised questions about food control systems throughout the 27 nation European Union and highlighted how little consumers know about the complex trading operations that pass food from producers to wholesalers to processors to stores and onto dinner tables.

A Long and Complex Horsemeat Trail

The French Agriculture Minister stated complex trading practices between wholesalers makes it increasingly difficult to trace the origins of food like horsemeat disguised as beef being sold in frozen food products around Europe.

French investigators found that a major French food company brought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, who brought from a Dutch company that received the meat from a Romanian slaughterhouse making this complex web in horsemeat trading a critical control point.

Self Regulation

Government ministers caught flat footed find themselves pleading with the industry to test processed beef products ‘so we know once and for all what’s in our food’

Supermarkets whose Value range products were found to contain significant amounts of horse announced they were pulling them from the shelves.

The Food Standard Agency (FSA) announced two new waves of testing in response to the unfolding scandal, it further stated it would require all meat suppliers and retailers who deal in minced beef to test all their product line and report their findings.

As the scandal intensifies with more disclosures of horse dressed as beef the FSA increased its demands requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says on the label, it goes on “We are demanding that food business conduct authenticity test on all beef products and provide the results to the FSA”. This point was repeated by other officials from the agency including the Director of Operations who told the BBC: “We’re demanding that all manufacturers and all retailers test all their products to rule out further contaminations”

Two Problems Too Many

There are two major problems to consider in requesting the food industry to test its own processed beef products.

The first is the scope of the undertaking. The FSA is demanding that all manufacturers and retailers in the country test their entire product lines and submit results within a week.

Depending on the nature of the analysis this could mean thousands of businesses flooding food testing laboratories with work and requiring results in seven days – an unlikely scenario.

The second and most critical feature to this crisis is that the food Standards Agency does not actually have the power to order companies to test their products or to sanction

them if they fail to comply. There is nothing the FSA can do if firms don’t volunteer to take part in their investigation making all this talk of “requiring” and “demanding”action from an industry that is self regulated misleading, fundamentally flawed and meaningless.

Industry insiders have stated they don’t believe that any analysis short of the very sophisticated DNA testing which has so far exposed the horse contamination will do the job effectively.

So what is at stake?

  • INDUSTRY AWEARNESS
  • TRANSPARANCY
  • BETTER GOVERNANCE
  • SHARING KNOWLEDGE
  • CROSS BORDER COOPERATION

Comments and Questions invited.

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