Thursday, 17 January 2013

Horse and Pig Meat Taboos. Faulty Food Labelling. Gordon Ramsay. Janet Street Porter. Food Safety Authority in Ireland leads the way.

Horse rump steak  in Edinburgh's L'Escargot Bleu

News that the Food Safety Authority in Ireland has discovered illegal horse and pig meat in 31 products in the UK and Ireland labelled as beef burgers, cottage pies, lasagne etc., has upset and shocked both the British and the Irish, who regard eating horse meat as taboo. The news has also deeply offended practicing Muslims and Jews who are forbidden to eat pig meat. Jews are also forbidden to eat horse meat because horses are non-ruminants without cloven hooves.

David Cameron told MPs at Prime Minister’s Question Time today: ‘It is an extremely serious issue. People in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beef burgers they were buying something with horse meat in it.

The Food Safety Authority in Ireland is thought to have the most up-to-date equipment for the testing of food and clearly has the nous to use it intelligently for every possible infraction. It checked each label on each of the 31 meat products did exactly as it said on the tin.
The Food Standards Agency in Britain has never tested food for the presence of horse meat because it “did not pose a threat to health.”  Did it not test meat for adulteration or check  whether the contents of meat products matched the labels? Malpractice by meat processors could have been going on for years  with such apparently lax standards by the Food Standards Agency.

Gordon Ramsay tried to promote eating horsemeat in 2007 on his TV programme The F-word, on Channel 4.  Protesters reacted by leaving horse manure outside his restaurant at Claridges Hotel. Janet Street Porter who appeared on the programme supported him: "In a world of mad cows, we should be opening our eyes to new types of red meat. Horse meat is a really good source of protein and one we should take seriously". Janet was referring to the BSE/mad cow disease in this country which had led to the EU ban of British beef exports for ten long years, from 1996-2006.

The Week quoted the trenchant views of American magazine Popular Science:  "It does not speak very highly of the regulation in place for meat processing, especially in the UK, which has had the worst experience with BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, of any country in the world."
The Week also pointed out the contradiction that although we do not eat horse meat because we regard the animals as companions, Britain still exports “up to 10,000 live horses to Belgium, France and Italy each year for human consumption.

Not everyone in the UK or in Ireland has our taboo against eating horse meat of course. It is eaten quite readily in other parts of the world, and here it is perfectly legal to buy and sell horsemeat:  two horse fillet steaks can be bought online from Exotic Meats for £5.95.   Zebra, kangaroo, crocodile, camel rib-eye, haunch of springbok, wagyu rump, wildebeest, impala, llama, whale meat and blesbok are also available from specialist suppliers.. These alternative meats are also served in some restaurants.