February 14, 2013
Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Europe… And The World
Right now, Europe is engaged in a scandal of Mr. Ed proportions. Okay, I’m sorry. That was a bad joke. More seriously, many supermarkets across Europe, specifically in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Ireland) and France, recently announced that they learned that some of their pre-made meats (like frozen hamburgers, lasagna, and others) had a significant amount of horse meat in them.
According to the BBC UK website, “last week Findus UK took its frozen beef lasagna, made by the Comigel food processing company in France, off the shelves after some were found to have up to 100% horse meat in them.” It was not called frozen horse meat lasagna. No, it was frozen beef lasagna, but it was made with horse meat. I recently posted about how mislabeling (or in some cases blatant lying to consumers) is just not right, but I will reiterate here.
First of all, I do not eat meat, but let us pretend that I do for the sake of this blog. If I ate meat, it is not that I would necessarily mind eating horse meat, but that I would mind eating horse meat if what I thought I was purchasing was beef. It is just like I wrote about olive oil. If I wanted vegetable oil, I would purchase vegetable oil. I want olive oil, so I better get olive oil. If I want beef, and the package says beef, the meat better be beef.
Now, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised consumers to continue buying the beef products even though many have been found to contain horse meat. First, they do not want people to shy away from the beef products. Secondly, the FSA is demanding companies test their products and remove those with significant amounts of horse meat.
One major concern with horse meat is whether the horses were contaminated with a veterinary drug called phenylbutazone (also known as bute). Animals treated with bute are not allowed to enter the food chain. The FSA has promised to act very swiftly if evidence of a serious threat to health emerges, including bute contamination.
Now the blame game has started. UK supermarkets have pulled meats and placed blame on Findus and Comigel, the suppliers. Findus France has said it will take action in the French courts as it believes it is a victim of fraud from the company that supplied it the meat, Spanghero. But Spanghero says it is also the victim of fraud and intends to sue its Romanian supplier. Reports from France have suggested that the problem rests in two abattoirs in Romania.
Jeez. What a mess.
The one perk to this horse meat epidemic is that butchers have seen an uptick in customers. Apparently, the scandal has prompted people to get fresh meat from someone they can watch chop and butcher their meat. Suddenly, they do not have the same trust in their ready-made meats from the supermarket. I can’t say I blame them.
It is criminal to mislabel food like this. It breaches the basic rules of honesty and decency. People want to know what they are eating for a variety of reasons. For instance, horses are pets and family members to the English and have been for centuries, thus eating horses for the English would be the equivalent of eating dogs for Americans and maybe even worse.
Again, it is not so much what people are eating as it is what they think they are eating. When Taco Bell got in all that trouble for the pink slime and meat filling issues, the anger stemmed from being misled. What is happening in Europe is no different from any other examples. People want to trust that what they are purchasing contains what it says it does and nothing more. Apparently, for companies worldwide, the latter is hard for them to do.
We must demand that companies sell to us honestly.
Image Credit: Photos.com