Whoa Nelly! When I first heard stories being trotted out last month about the fury over horsemeat in “beef” products in the UK, I thought that given how much is riding on public trust, the complaints would spur food inspection agencies to have reined in the problem by now. But I hear that Britain’s Tesco and Burger King are being saddled with new findings, making a lot of people skittish even here in the U.S. This could prove a boon to McDonald’s long jockeying with Burger King in the fast food market. At first Tesco bridled at the accusations (declaring the rumors “horse%$#@”), but once the equine DNA was tracked, the horse was out of the barn and they had to take out a full page ad to apologize. Possibly from a crude p-value analysis it was concluded:
“The early results from Findus UK’s internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in Beef Lasagne was not accidental.”
The horsemeat could well have been sold for quite some time it has been revealed, given that tests for horse DNA have not been conducted in donkey’s years!
On Thursday, the scandal deepened further with the news that horsemeat had been found in Findus ready meals made in France, prompting the British government to call it “very distasteful” .
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said there would be an investigation there: “We need to avoid this idea that there was some desire to hide things,” he told BFM television.
Clearly, they could not have been deliberately hiding things: one of the companies is even called “Findus”. Nor would they ever try to stall the investigations now cropping up all over.
In an article in the Mirror, the problem is linked to people living hand to mouth:
Findus beef lasagne sold at £1.60 – for 360g of alleged beef, tomatoes, onions, herbs, white sauce and pasta.… Why did none of us work out sooner that if they were flogging it for £1.60 something was amiss?
Elsewhere I read that France’s agriculture minister issued a warning
that companies found to have knowingly misled consumers would be ‘severely punished’.
Possibly even horsewhipped! To ease the fury, some lawmakers in the UK are becoming galloping gourmets:
Two senior lawmakers advised on Friday against eating processed beef products, but Paterson said he would happily eat them and Cameron insisted there was no health risk.
“There is no reason to believe that any frozen food currently on sale is unsafe or a danger to health. It’s not so much about food safety, it’s about proper food labeling, it’s about confidence in retailers,” Cameron said.
Experts say horsemeat could contain traces of veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or “bute”, used as a painkiller, which can be harmful to humans but only in high concentrations.
However, the danger of eating such meat may be slight: “The idea that you might get a clinically significant amount in horsemeat, even after therapeutic administration to the horse is, frankly, daft,” said Colin Berry, a professor of pathology at Queen Mary, University of London.
Perhaps he’s being groomed for a policy post. The following timeline posted in the Guardian shows the race is on to reveal higher and higher percentages!
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland says beefburgers with traces of equine DNA, including one product classed as 29% horse, are being supplied to supermarkets by Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, subsidiaries of the ABP Food Group.
Production at a second meat supplier, Rangeland Foods in Co Monaghan, is suspended after 75% equine DNA is found in raw ingredients, the Irish department of agriculture confirms…..
The Food Standards Agency reveals a second case of “gross contamination” after some Findus UK beef lasagnes are found to contain up to 100% horsemeat. The products were made by Comigel.
The New York Times, also running with the story, reports that the chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Alan Reilly, said that meat was being deliberately mislabeled.
“We are no longer talking about trace amounts,” he told RTE, the national broadcaster. “We are talking about horse meat. Somebody, someplace, is drip-feeding horse meat into the burger manufacturing industry. We don’t know exactly where this is happening.”
But they may now have identified a horsemeat lasagna factory that looks pretty fishy:
Sprawling on a frozen plain in an isolated part of central Europe, the huge Comigel food factory appears a deeply sinister place….
The production plant, accused of being the source of horse meat-laden ready meals which have flooded the UK food market, looks like a cross between a prison and a crematorium.
The Tavola factory specialises in ready-made frozen meals, producing an astonishing 16,000 tonnes a year.
At the end of the article are some interesting charts on the statistics of horse meat production around the world.
No closing the barn door now, the inquiry has taken off! In the mean time, enjoy your filly cheese steak! Is it horse or not? That is equestrian.
Send me related updates for this post from your neigh-borhood.
(1) Is this a good analogy?
Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said regulators weren’t at fault.
“This is not a regulation failure,” he said. “We have to stop saying that just because there is a fraud. That’s like saying that just because there are police officers around and that an accident happens, there is a failure on the part of the police officers.”
(2) Carmolimp? Mere labeling issue?
Meanwhile, one Romanian producer that processes horse meat, Carmolimp, called the French assertions against Romanian producers “shameful” and an “unprecedented attack” without merit. “If the horse meat left Romania, then it would have been only labeled as horse meat,” Olimpiu Soneriu, the director of Carmolimp, said in a statement. He added that horse meat and beef were easily differentiated by their texture.
…. “It is just a labeling issue,” Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for health and consumer policy at the European Commission, told reporters at a regular briefing in Brussels. “As far as I know, the meat in question has not been contaminated in any way.”