Horse meat is an integral part of many countries’ culinary traditions, particularly in Europe and Asia. Each year, the eight countries that consume the most horse meat consume approximately 4.3 million horses. But this is not something new, in most of humanity’s early history, wild horses were hunted for protein. But have you ever heard of the scandal involving horsemeat?
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested a variety of cheap frozen beef burgers and ready meals from supermarkets for the existence of undeclared DNA from other species. Horse DNA was found in more than one-third of the beef burger samples.
Where Did the Horse and Pig Found in Beef Products Come From?
The Irish survey determined three factories as the source of harmful or adulterated beef products: Silvercrest Foods in Ireland, Dalepak in Yorkshire, and Liffey Meats in Ireland. One of Europe’s largest beef processors, ABP Food Group, acknowledges Silvercrest and Dalepak.
ABP blamed its continental suppliers, which the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) identified as the Netherlands and Spain. It later disclosed that the horsemeat had entered its supply chain through Polish suppliers. The Polish government examined its horse slaughterhouses and discovered no labeling irregularities. The links in the Irish chain have yet to be fully established five weeks into the scandal.
ABP has also verified that it was supplied with beef by Norwest Foods, a Cheshire-based company with operations in Poland and Spain, which the FSAI is now investigating.
The first report of horsemeat in fresh beef surfaced when Asda recalled its fresh beef bolognese. Its supplier was the Irish company Greencore, which was declared to have received the meat from ABP. (Source: The Guardian)
The Controversy Behind the Horsemeat
The governments of Poland and Romania have opposed their innocence in exporting horses as beef. Still, they have also stated that their horse slaughtering industries are not large enough to account for the emerging scale of adulteration.
For several years, animal welfare organizations have cautioned governments about the growing trade in knackered horses between Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and North and South America, including continental Europe.
Much of the latter is delivered through Belgium. Welfare organizations have reported thousands of horses being moved by networks of horse dealers without valid passports. They are a cross between racehorses and pets. (Source: The Guardian)
What Rules Govern the Meat Industry?
Licensed slaughterhouses in Europe must have a licensed veterinarian present when slaughtering occurs. In the UK, most were directly employed by the government, but they are now supplied under contract to the Food Standards Agency by the private company Eville & Jones.
A meat hygiene inspector is also required for plants of a certain size. The trend begun by the previous government to deregulate and leave the industry to police itself has reduced the number of inspectors from 1,700 at the height of the BSE crisis to around 800 now. Smaller cutting manufacturers are no longer inspected on a daily basis. (Source: The Guardian)
Is Horsemeat Hazardous to Consumers?
The government initially claimed that horsemeat posed no health risk, but a leading government public analyst pointed out that it couldn’t be sure until it knew where it originated. According to the numerous recent pieces of advice from the chief medical officers, there is a risk, but it is very low. (Source: The Guardian)