Horse meat discovery hurts the trade not the consumers
Horse meat poses no risk – but discovery in burgers raises concerns for meat producers and retailers
TESCO has apologised after horse meat was discovered in its burgers. Along with other retailers, the supermarket has withdrawn several beef products from sale.
DNA from horses and pigs was also found in beef products on sale in Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and the Irish chain Dunnes Stores.
The discovery was made by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which said the burgers came from two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and the Dalepak plant at Hambleton in Yorkshire.
Low levels of horse and pig DNA were present in most of the samples from the retailers, but one batch of Tesco Everyday Value Beefburgers contained around 29 per cent horse meat, relative to beef content.
According to the Daily Mirror: "Continental suppliers were being blamed for the blunder."
The sale of horse meat in Britain is not illegal – and it poses no risk to human health – but, as the Daily Mail reports, it is illegal not to declare every ingredient on food labels.
The discovery raises questions about "the traceability of meat ingredients and products" entering the food chain, says the Daily Telegraph. It is also also likely "to prove worrying to practising Jews and Muslims" who may have unwittingly eaten pig, which is forbidden in their culture.
Tim Smith, technical director of Tesco and the former head of the Food Standards Agency, said: "We are working with the authorities in Ireland and the UK, and with the supplier concerned, to urgently understand how this has happened and how to ensure it does not happen again."
There are concerns that the scandal could have a serious impact on the Irish food industry. "The stakes for Ireland Inc are very high," said the Irish Independent. "The concern is that the reputation of Irish beef could take a serious hit."
As for the reputation of British supermarkets, the American magazine Popular Science was quick to raise the spectre of mad cow disease. "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."
Amid all the concerns, the Mail points out that horse meat is still considered a delicacy in some countries because it is "sweet, tender, low in fat and high in protein".
The popularity of horse meat in the UK, Ireland and US has fallen in the last century because the animals are regarded as "companions". But that does not stop Britain exporting up to 10,000 live horses to Belgium, France and Italy each year for human consumption.