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#1 Sat 16 Feb 13 9:28pm

hippytea

Member
Occupation Chief cook and bottle-washer
From Scotland
Member since Mon 12 Sep 11

Horsemeat - let's get serious.

So the horsemeat scandal's been a good laugh, and I'm sure there's plenty of humour still to be got out of it, but I'd like to be serious about it for a moment. I've had any number of conversations about it over the past week, with friends, family, checkout staff and random strangers at bus stops, and underneath the quips, people are angry and worried.

The fact is, the meat traceability system is a mess, and nobody seems to be keeping tabs on it.

So while we wait for politicians to promptly and competently identify the problems and fix what's wrong so that we can be assured that all meat sold is unadulterated and safe  whistle  what can we do to make sure the meat we buy is OK, or at least at low risk of contamination with unregulated meat?

I'm UK-based. My first impulse is to stick to British or Scottish meat, not because I think any one state is more to blame than another for this, but because if the animal was brought from birth to sale without crossing borders, there are fewer opportunities for fraud.

But the "British" or "Scottish" label can be applied to live imports that are finished or slaughtered here. At least that means I probably know the species (which is nice) but it's still a little longer a chain than I would like (quiet apart from the welfare issues).

What labels can I use to assure me meat was bred, raised, slaughtered and processed within the UK? Red tractor? Freedom Food? Organic?

All thoughts welcome. I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering about this. For now, I'll be avoiding mince and sausages from anywhere but my local butcher, whom I trust; but not everyone has access to a butcher, or a good relationship with one.

Even if you're not in the UK, this is worth thinking about. This scandal affects everyone in the EU, and even those outwith the EU, don't be too sanguine. Industrialisation and long supply chains affect food safety more or less everywhere.

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#2 Sat 16 Feb 13 9:52pm

maddimouse

Forum champ
Occupation chatterbox addicted to cooking
From mid-west Germany
Member since Mon 23 Feb 09

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

Hey there

exclaim I'll be avoiding mince and sausages from anywhere but my local butcher exclaim

I think thatīs at least for those who have access to a local butcher, the best option.

I never liked ready meals, I never believed that the labelling is always correct. Not to speak about all the added chemistry for looks, taste, storage life etc. As far as I have understood so far, the risk of getting something else than labelled when buying FRESH (minced) meat isnīt impossible but in opposite to ready meals not very high.

It shows - again - that cooking your own meal from scratch still is the best option. Thatīs why I cook at least two more portions most of the time to freeze it (depending on whether it CAN actually be frozen). This way I have a ready made meal when I donīt have the time to cook and I know whatīs in it.

There will always be greedy people who donīt care about the consequences if only they can make more money. And they will always find a way.

I think Iīve found a reliable source for all the meat products that I buy, same for the eggs, fruit and veg I buy at the local market. When buying in the supermarket, I am aware that I am taking a higher risk of being betrayed and actually not buying what I want to.

Maddi

Last edited by maddimouse (Sat 16 Feb 13 9:53pm)

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#3 Sat 16 Feb 13 9:56pm

oliviascotland

Forum champ
From Scotland
Member since Wed 06 Apr 05

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

I think that, if buying from a supermarket, I would only really be prepared to buy British (preferably Scottish) organic meat that isn't minced or in sausages.  I certainly wouldn't (in fact, can't due to allergies) buy any form of ready meal.  Generally I avoid buying meat from Asda and Morrisons, and only rarely buy poultry from Sainsbury's and Tescos due to the whole GMO food chain issue that reared its head last year.  I buy my beef directly from a local farmer, and the same goes for my lamb.  I have also found a farmer who will sell me pork directly, too.  This is all above board, legal, etc, and goes through the local abattoir and has the food safety stamps on it, but does mean that I can go to the farms at any point and see the animals and even choose the beast I wish to have in my freezer.  This isn't an option for everyone, I know.

Having written to the major supermarket chains recently about GMO in animal feeds (and the fact that it isn't labelled) I would tend to rely on their answers as to what to avoid - all major supermarket suggested buying organic, but Sainsbury's was the most open about the source of their meat and their suggestion that they source their "Taste the Difference" range in the UK, and that their organic meat is  British seem to me to make them the best bet to buy from.  Sainsbury's were the most open of all supermarkets in their response, and answered questions fully, asking me to contact them if I wanted more information.   If in doubt, write to your supermarket and ask - if they don't answer to your satisfaction then try to use one that does.  The more people writing in, and customers using their feet and wallets to demand trace-ability and accountability the better.  But the best of all is to support our local farmers and where possible (and I know it isn't always possible!) use your local farmers market or butcher or contact your local farmer directly.

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#4 Sun 17 Feb 13 1:18am

mummza

Forum super champ
Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

hippytea , I disagree that the meat tracability system is the uk is a mess, it is kept tabs on and there are strict controls in place .
Cows, for example , have to have 2 ear tags and a whole raft of paperwork etc to ensure that they are traceable, if this is not in order then they are not allowed into the foodchain.

The problem has been with imported meats and it seems ready meals , some countries do not have the same strict protocols in place and the meat is not as tracable back to sorce.

As I see the horsemeat scandle which has in my mind unfolded into a deep problem , firstly there is the deceptio , selling meat labled as beef when it definatly wasnt beef. That is bad enough but as this scandle has unfolded we find that the meat being talked about is not very traceable and could be animals of any age and in any condition.
This is a serious issue as some diseases can pass from animals to humans  (zoonosis ) and not everything is always dystroyed in the cooking process.

I cant get excited about the fact that people have been eating horse as clearly with so many aparently contaminated ready meals and burgers that have been sold and consumed the British public clearly have a taste for horsemeat .

Its the deception and the state of the animals that were slaughtered that ,to me, is the real issue.

It does make me think ... This is clearly happening as there are so very many premade products on the market , so very many ready meals avalible and a great many peple do not cook from fresh produce on a regular basis if at all these days.

If you cook from fresh ingredients and make meals yourself you know what goes into them .

How do you know that the meat you are buying ir reputable... you go to a reliable butcher and he should know the sorce of the meat he is selling , his reputation depends upon it.

Farmers markets are also a good sorce of reliable meat although you do tend to pay more than you would in the supermarket.

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#5 Sun 17 Feb 13 6:47am

Ashen

Forum champ
Occupation Why is the Rum always gone???!
From out to lunch
Member since Sat 07 Jan 06

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

It is an interesting situation..   the european regs for meat production are tighter than most places but seems to be falling down somewhat in the matter of enforcement and acountability.   

Still I would trade you for what is happening here , as they don't allow for anti-botics, hormones or beta agonists   like many countries are letting feedlots use.   The USA seems to be the wild west in the anything goes category but even Canada which I thought had some tough regs allows for the use of at least one Beta Agonist and big business is lobbying for everything else.


Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook.  { cowboy saying}
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#6 Sun 17 Feb 13 9:18am

hippytea

Member
Occupation Chief cook and bottle-washer
From Scotland
Member since Mon 12 Sep 11

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

The routine use of antibiotics in animal feed appals me - and not really from a food safety point of view. Chances are any residues that get into my food are not harming me - directly. But the constant presence of antibiotics in the animals' system, together with the possible low-level presence in our systems, is a perfect situation for developing resistant strains of bacteria, i.e. superbugs. That's why antibiotic use in humans is so restricted - why on earth is it allowed in farming?

But that's a whole different issue from the traceability.

Mummza, maybe our traceability system is good in the UK, maybe it isn't. It's certainly tight in theory, but how closely monitored is it really? If our systems are not capable of detecting flagrant fraud in imports, how effective are they at protecting the domestic product from the same?

However I agree with you that our regs, on welfare and safety, are tighter than many other countries (especially anti-BSE measures, which depend entirely on traceability - just think about that for a moment). And like I said, wherever you are, domestic meat means a shorter chain and less opportunity for fraud. But even if the problem is entirely with imports, how do we spot them? Our food labelling system does not allow us to buy British with any confidence. That was a big part of why I started this thread - to try and thrash out which labels clearly indicate a traceable product from within our own borders, as I believe that is the safest.

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#7 Sun 17 Feb 13 12:08pm

mummza

Forum super champ
Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

there are tracable lables on the UK meat in the supermarket Hippytea, and if you get the meat from some supermarkets then you might also see a picture of the farmer n the label also .
I think that most of the supermarket labels have the point of origin of the meat on the labels now.
The supermarkets entered into a volentary code of practice some years ago that started the way that they lable the meat on their shelves and give the point of origin.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11830421

A definate awareness of the origin of meat came into being in the light of the BSE crisis some years ago and it is because that the  tight regulatios about which part of the aminal can be used ad it also meat that every cow had to have paperwork and 2 ear tags .

I thought this papaerwork was with all animals that went into the food chain , but my darling tells me that is it just with cattle. Other animals like sheep and pigs do not have to have the papaerwork that goes with the cattle.

With antibiotics in the animal feed I thought that practice had stopped and I thought it was forbidden in europe by the eropean union rules, but I might be wrong about that.
I know that flocks of chickens get against salmonella, to  prevent the salmonella getting into the eggs,

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#8 Sun 17 Feb 13 2:23pm

MsPablo

Forum super champ
Occupation Just being me
Member since Fri 28 Mar 08

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

Isn't antibiotic use up to a certain point merely the humane treatment of ailments?  I think the problems stem from using it as a preventative measure all the time andl near the time of slaughter.

The best approach in the U.S. is to buy organic or Kosher meats, IMO.

Wouldn't it be nice if the pre-packaged foods and processed foods contained only basic, healthful ingredients that are accurately labeled?  This is possible and the public should be able to expect that quality, but it will cost more than the poor quality stuff.

I still wonder why it would be economically feasible to use horse over beef.

It makes sense to avoid poor quality processed foods, but we should not have to worry that the labeling is incorrect or that the meat hasn't been inspected.   Is this not breaking laws in the EU?    What is being done to uphold the law?  If you can't count on the system to prevent this kind of crime, your system is failing.

Last edited by MsPablo (Sun 17 Feb 13 2:30pm)

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#9 Sun 17 Feb 13 9:14pm

hippytea

Member
Occupation Chief cook and bottle-washer
From Scotland
Member since Mon 12 Sep 11

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

It looks like I may be behind the times, and a "British" label does mean the animals have been born, reared and slaughtered in the UK:

http://www.lovebritishfood.co.uk/britis … s-british/

That link also gives some other unseful info on the standards. And a suggestion that I may be wrong about preventive antibiotics, at least within the UK.

Sorry abut that - I should have done more research on this before going off on one; but the info we get via the press is so confused sometimes, and the Government and retailers seem determined to fob us off with half explanations.

MsPablo, yes, this whole business is against both UK and EU law. Criminal activity is involved here, though it may take a while to find out exactly what and by whom, and how it was allowed to happen. As for "what is being done to uphold the law" - that is exactly the question! The Government seems to expect that the existence of the legislation is enough, without any need for adequate enforcement. I think Governments often fall into that trap.

As for how it is economic to use horse rather than beef - I don't know, but if the horses involved are not food-grade animals, but worn-out racehorses or unwanted pets illegally used for food, the economics may well add up.

The BBC Food Programme has run two episodes on this now. They are well worth listening to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/foodprog

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#10 Sun 17 Feb 13 10:50pm

Ashen

Forum champ
Occupation Why is the Rum always gone???!
From out to lunch
Member since Sat 07 Jan 06

Re: Horsemeat - let's get serious.

I hope hippytea doesn't mind a bit of a sidetrack here


MsPablo wrote:

Isn't antibiotic use up to a certain point merely the humane treatment of ailments?  I think the problems stem from using it as a preventative measure all the time andl near the time of slaughter.

In  countries that allow these things.

The main purpose of using antibiotics in cattle production is weight gain..  For some reason the animals gain weight much faster when constantly  treated with them, it is the same reason that hormones and anti agonists ( these are basically the same meds that are prescribed for humans with asthma )are used. These things produce more meat , faster, thus being more economically attractive to producers.

Last edited by Ashen (Sun 17 Feb 13 10:52pm)


Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook.  { cowboy saying}
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