Horse meat findings so far are ‘tip of the iceberg’

THE LIMITED cases of horse meat found in products on sale in the UK, and around Europe, are likely to be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ according to an influential group of MPs.


In a short, but hard-hitting, inquiry into the scandal, the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee concluded that the public have been “duped” and the current arrangements for testing and control across the European food industry have failed UK consumers.


It also concluded that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) needs clear powers and responsibilities so that it can respond more effectively to any future food adulteration scandal.


The new report, published today, also suggested that the government will need to “consider its role in achieving the correct balance between affordable food prices and regulations that ensure transparency and quality. We are concerned that the consumer will be caught in a Catch 22 between paying the costs of higher traceability, labelling and testing standards or having to accept that they will not be provided with comprehensive information about the provenance and composition of the food that they eat.”


The report comes 24 hours before the first test results are due from across the UK food supply chain. This includes caterers and those in the foodservice sector.


Yesterday, industry bodies and some of the larger firms moved to calm concerns raised during parliamentary debates about how quickly the hospitality and catering companies had reacted to the scandal.


EFRA committee chair Anne McIntosh MP said more revelations will doubtless come to light in the UK and across the EU. “There is every indication that horsemeat has been intentionally substituted for beef by criminals with access to the food industry,” she said. “Elements within the food industry have duped consumers in the UK and across Europe in pursuit of profit.”


She also said the government has a role to “secure the correct balance between affordable food prices and effective regulations that require transparency and quality”.


The chief medical officer has also published a statement today, February 14th, claiming that horse meat containing phenylbutazone presents a “very low risk” to human health.


Restoring customer confidence is expected to take time and money with polls and anecdotal reports suggesting that consumers were already avoiding supermarkets in favour of local butchers. One poll by Retail Week found that 45% of consumers would avoid buying meat from the retailers and grocers involved in the scandal.