So tell me, yea or nay (neigh), does the horse meat scandal give you cause for concern?
The Prime Minister said it was “completely unacceptable”, that horse meat had been sold in products labelled as containing only beef.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Cameron said: “People will be very angry to find out they have been eating horse when they thought they were eating beef.”
He then continued by saying “It’s important to say there’s no reason to believe any frozen food currently on sale is unsafe or a danger to health. It’s not about food safety – it’s about proper food labelling and about confidence in retailers.”
Really? How can he (or anyone else) be sure?
The horse meat scandal spread on Tuesday when the upmarket retailer Waitrose withdrew its Essential British Frozen Beef Meatballs after pork was detected in two batches. Pork was also recently found in Halal meat products being served in UK prisons.
Waitrose said in a statement: “Several tests have been done on this product and, even though the results have been contradictory, we have taken the precautionary action of removing the frozen meatballs from sale and putting up customer information notices in all our branches.”
It added: “Although the meatballs are safe to eat, … pork is not listed as an ingredient and should not be part of the recipe.”
So if we have both pork and horse in food products where they are not in the recipe, how do we really know what else is in them and if they really are safe to eat?
Supermarkets have been told to check their stocks of beef for Horse DNA by this coming Friday February 15 and now there are also concerns about lamb products. You would think that with checks due to be completed this week and stores (presumably) removing ‘mis-labelled’ products as soon as they are discovered that this scandal is nearly over. But, it has emerged that a wider check of school and hospital food by the Food Standards Agency will not be ready for another two months (8 April 2013).
International mixture of random body parts?
EU agriculture ministers are to discuss the horsemeat scandal that has reportedly affected up to 16 countries.The scandal is reported to have raised questions about the complexity of the food industry’s supply chains across the 27-member EU bloc, with a number of supermarket chains withdrawing frozen beef products.
In the UK, the supermarket giant Tesco, frozen food firm Findus and budget chain Aldi received horsemeat-tainted mince from Comigel, based in northeastern France.
Horsemeat has now been confirmed in some frozen lasagne on sale in France too.
Comigel denied wrongdoing, saying it had ordered the meat from Spanghero, a firm in southern France, via a Comigel subsidiary in Luxembourg – Tavola.
The supply chain reportedly led back to traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, then to abattoirs in Romania.
There are now calls for more specific labelling on processed meat products in the EU, to show country of origin, as in the case of fresh meat. But the cost of doing that may (will) trigger opposition from food manufacturers.
Unsurprisingly, Romania has denied claims that it was the source of the mislabelling of horsemeat. Bucharest says horsemeat that leaves the country has not been minced, and is labelled as horse.
But is this just down to imported meat products?
A slaughterhouse and a meat firm in the UK have now been raided by police and officials probing alleged horsemeat mislabelling.
Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and Farmbox Meats Ltd, of Llandre near Aberystwyth, have had work suspended and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said it was unacceptable if UK firms were defrauding the public.
The West Yorkshire plant was thought to have supplied horse carcasses to the Aberystwyth plant, which were then allegedly sold on as beef for kebabs and burgers.
Both West Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys police entered the premises with the FSA.
Peter Boddy, the owner of the slaughter house said “It was not a raid – they are welcome to visit whenever they want, they just wanted to see my records which I will be showing them.”
He confirmed he slaughters horses at his plant and that the meat is sold in the UK.
Dafydd Raw Rees of Farmbox Meats said he had a licensed red meat cutting plant and had been in operation for three years.
“I’ve been cutting horse meat for three and a half weeks,” he said.
“The meat comes from Ireland. A consignment came in this morning as the FSA arrived.”
“There is nothing we have done here which is not totally permissible.”
Does horse meat carry a health risk?
The discovery that horsemeat has been used in a variety of processed foods, including burgers, lasagne and other convenience meals, is disquieting. However, the presence of horseflesh in such meals does not directly pose a threat to health. Horsemeat is still eaten by people in many European countries. Italy is a major consumer, for example.
But questions remain about its consumption in the UK because of the danger that it might contain a chemical known as bute or, to give its full name, phenylbutazone, a drug that is given to horses to relieve pain and treat fevers.
The problem is that bute can have side effects in human beings. It was once given to men and women to tackle conditions such as gout and arthritis until it was discovered that in some cases the chemical can trigger a serious blood disorder known as aplastic anaemia. Those who become affected by the condition suffer from loss of red and white blood cells and, without prompt treatment, it is considered to be life-threatening. As a result, phenylbutazone was banned as a medication for humans by drug authorities on both sides of the Atlantic several decades ago.
The problem is that bute may have made its way into the horsemeat that has been used to make burgers and lasagne, raising the fear that the chemical could trigger cases of aplastic anaemia in those who unwittingly consume contaminated foods, a point acknowledged by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and microbiology at Queen’s University Belfast.
“Obviously, bute is a chemical to be concerned about,” he told the Observer. “The issue is: will the traces that we are likely to find in contaminated meals pose a threat to those to consume them?
“In fact, the amount of bute that is likely to be obtained from eating a horsemeat burger is going to be about a millionth of that acquired when a person is given a dose of bute when used as an anti-gout medication. In other words, the risk of getting aplastic anaemia that is posed by consuming a horsemeat burger is very low indeed.”
However, many people live on diets that are dominated by processed foods, and bute could accumulate in their bodies. In such cases, horsemeat could pose a risk to health. Elliot again stressed the need for caution.
“To be blunt, if your diet is made up mainly of processed foods like those that have been found to contain horsemeat, the real threat to your health will not come from phenylbutazone but from the high levels of salt and fat you get in these products.
“You will be consuming dangerous high levels of both additives and that is likely to put a person at serious of risk of cardiac disease and other conditions. So the real danger comes from the processing, not so much the meat that you find in the products.”
The current focus of the UK (and world) media might be horse meat being found in ready meals and processed beef, but according to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chicken is the food most likely to kill you.
Personally, I like to know where my food comes from and so try to avoid processed foods. I try to buy fresh, organic produce and understand as much as possible about where the food my family and I eat comes from.
‘Rule #45: Eat All the Junk Food You Want as Long as You Cook It Yourself.’
Micheal Pollan – Food Rules
I was pleased to see my favourite noodle bar appears to share my views with this statement they posted on Facebook:
“There’s been a lot of stories in the press about contaminated beef products. We would like to assure that all the beef used in our kitchens comes in large cuts, which we then prepare and butcher ourselves. The beef comes from farms in Ireland and not from mainland Europe. The minced beef that we make our beef patties with, is made to order. I select the beef from behind the counter which the butcher then minces in front of me. See you all soon, Happy Slurping 288 Bar & Wok.”
Eating beef is safe, says David Cameron – but parents have to wait til April to find out if school meals are horse-free
Horsemeat scandal: David Cameron says offenders will feel full force of law
Horsemeat scandal: EU ministers to hold crisis talks
Horsemeat row: Slaughterhouse and meat firm raided
Horsemeat does carry a health risk, but it’s incredibly small
‘Traces of pork DNA’ found in halal prison meat
2013 Miles in 2013
I am my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, so if you can please spare £2.06 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.