Horse meat in beef burgers: the lessons

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The recent revelation that horse meat has been found in “beef” burgers sold in the UK has a lot to teach us.

That horse meat poses no health risk1 is of little comfort.  Instead, it is disconcerting that a food that carries with it a strong taboo not only made its way into our food chain, but has done so for an unknown period of time.

It’s now up to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to work out how this has happened, as set out in their four-point action plan2. However, once the immediacy of this situation has inevitably fizzled down the FSA need to look at how else this is happening.  What else are we unknowingly eating as a result of poor or unenforced traceability? Traceability isn’t exciting.  It’s unlikely to make headlines until it goes wrong. Yet it is important. We need to know where our food has come from. Or at the very least, we need authenticity. To be able to trust that what we told are being sold is indeed what we are being sold. It is not good enough to palm off the cause of the problem as that of a supplier’s supplier.

In the meantime what can we, as consumers, do? Buy from trusted sources.  How do we know what sources are to be trusted? Surely buying direct from farm butcheries is not the only answer. Buying accredited food that has met certain standards seems to be another option. I find the number of accreditation schemes out there overwhelming: Red Tractor; Freedom Food; Fair Trade; Rainforest Alliance; Soil Association; the list goes on.  Each scheme has particular standards and degrees of enforcement, but do they mean that those selling the product can trust where the food has come from and the standards to which it has been produced? The Red Tractor jumps out as one that could fit the bill3. When you see the Red Tractor logo on a pack, with the Union Jack in it, it means that every critical stage from production on farms to the pack sitting on the shelf in front of you is inspected to their standards and is produced in the UK.

Coming back to The Wild Oven, what does this mean for us? It means that when I source the raw ingredients that go in to making our fabulous wood fired food I care about where the food came from so that we can in turn be authentic and honest.

Danni

1. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/horse-meat-could-have-been-in-tesco-burgers-for-years-claims-food-watchdog-8454946.html 

2. http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2013/jan/horse-update#.UPfdIImLLDI

3. http://www.redtractor.org.uk/what-we-do/what-does-the-logo-stand-for

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