Knowing (and accepting) what you eat
Posted: February 13, 2013
As the horsemeat scandal spreads across Europe at breakneck speed, exacerbated by certain scaremongers on social media networks, some consumers may find themselves casting an envious eye toward their vegetarian friends.
Contaminated meat has been detected in several processed food products, leading supermarkets all over the Continent to remove the offending items from their shelves. It is thought up to 16 countries in the European Union could be affected in total, with the finger of blame pointing as far afield as Romania.
In some cases, readymade lasagna meals produced by frozen foods brand Findus and German supermarket chain Lidl were found to contain 100 percent horsemeat. An initial investigation has traced the affair back to a Romanian slaughterhouse, which allegedly sold horsemeat as beef to a Cypriot trader.
Naturally, the scandal has provoked a strong reaction from concerned shoppers. Families have been left wondering how it was allowed to happen and will now be worried about the quality and price of the meals they buy, not least when they are already struggling to make ends meet.
Illegal activity is suspected somewhere along the supply chain, but by potentially cutting corners on cost, both consumers and producers have put themselves in a difficult position. For the food industry especially, the affair has damaged - perhaps irreparably - its partnerships with some very high-profile customers.
Confidence in the industry, not to mention profits, will take a big hit, with some estimates showing the scandal could wipe tens of millions of euros from the economy. The first task must be to stop the wave of negative publicity arising from the affair and then to reassure a nervous general public. Meanwhile, governments need to take swift measures to ensure food safety standards are met.
However, the health risks appear to be minimal. Although some horses are given an anti-inflammatory drug called bute, which can be dangerous to humans, these animals are meant to be banned from entering the food chain.
Horsemeat - when properly regulated - is no more unsafe to eat than beef. Indeed, it is consumed in many countries around the world, including here in the Czech Republic, where one store, Albert, reintroduced the meat on its shelves last Christmas.
Of course, people have a right to know what they are putting into their mouths, and the whole scandal is nothing short of shocking. But perhaps it will also have one positive effect: to make us reassess our own relationship with food, broadening our horizons and tastes.
After all, variety is the spice of life.