HORSE MEAT AND OTHER SCANDALS

It’s time we took another hard look at the labelling of all meat products sold in the UK and in particular , more than ever now,  in the light of recent scandals,  I  am sure I am not alone  in wanting to know precisely where any meat product I buy was originally sourced so I can make an informed choice.

There is still too much bull on all meat food labelling and not enough actual meat!

There is still too much bull on all meat food labelling and not enough actual meat in the actual packaging!

Few people can be really surprised at the current string of horse meat scandals where particularly  processed meat products, sourced in the main outside of the UK , and sold as “value” items in a range of supermarkets  have been found to contain often high percentages of horse DNA. The custom of importing large quantities of cheaper meat products  is just one of the ways supermarkets in particular can achieve lower production costs but the real problem is how to regulate meat producers and processors who supply retailers the UK  from countries where  food legislation ( and its enforcement)  is far more lax and therefore likely more prone to be the source of  such abuses.

The UK has some of the most stringent animal welfare regulations in the world but a great deal of meat is imported into Britain from countries who often have much poorer animal welfare practices .

It's outrageous how much water is added to bacon legally  but just to bulk up the weight and profit

It’s outrageous how much water is added to bacon legally but just to bulk up the weight and profit

Half the bacon sold in UK comes from the  Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Italy and 43% of other pork products come from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, where  poorer conditions than exist in the UK on pig farms are allowed and naturally for farmers in those countries production costs are lower than they are in UK farms and that is why supermarket buyers shop around those countries.

 

Like many people the horse meat scandals have horrified (but actually not surprised)  me and indeed I expect there to be far more horror stories before this tale has run to its logical conclusion. It is a certainty that the basis of these scandals is going to be organised criminal fraud on, very probably, a much larger scale than we would like to imagine.

 

On the plus side it has made many people far more aware of meat labelling and that can only be a good thing because I firmly believe that the standards we currently have still leave a lot to be desired. When you look at food standards here, “meat” is a pretty loose description and such delicacies as burgers, pasties, sausages rarely have, perfectly legally , a particularly high actual meat content and include other additives and fillers and also in many cases bulked up in weight with injected water.  (For example uncooked bacon said to contain “not more than 15 per cent added water  can legally contain up to 25 per cent water, ham can contain as much as 30% water  and it is not uncommon for supermarket poultry to contain as much as 40% water)

For me one of the simple ways or making such frauds less likely would be if it became mandatory to state on packaging the actual country of origin of the meat content and outlaw products whose meat content is sourced from more than one country . For me it is simply no longer  good enough that ,for example,  packs of ham and bacon in my fridge  merely state produced within the EU  or from producers “ either from “Germany or Denmark” – I think we should demand to know the actual country because within the European Union , despite the rhetoric of pan EU food legislation and labelling , good practice and honest trading are not uniform in all EU countries and indeed controls and animal welfare standards vary considerably.

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