Horse DNA found in some UK and Irish beefburgers, The Republic of Ireland’s Food Safety Authority (FSAI) confirms.
My initial response was to laugh, not least of all to the terrible tabloid headlines but as to why everyone was getting so flustered over it. “It’s disgusting!” I hear my colleagues exclaim and I too cannot hide my intrigue as to how horse meat managed to find its way into your lovely 100% burgers but I can’t help but laugh at the hypocritical sentiment. One sample from Tesco, Tesco’s Everyday Value Beef Burgers had a horsemeat content of approximately 29%, horrible but hang on a minute, what was the pigmeat content? I can’t remember, the newspapers although mentioning it in a footnote cared not to dwell on it for too long. Why? Last I check the British and Irish, although not known for our love of horsemeat are indeed capable of digesting it are we not, I do not recall anything about it being culturally unsuitable or against Christianity, or Atheism. For the majority of the British people there is no reason whatsoever that horsemeat should not be eaten, how exactly it is different from pig or cow? It isn’t. The outrage merely comes from this idea that horses are pet or used for sporting past times whilst pig, cows and chickens are slaughtered in the thousands for human consumption.
I can understand the outrage from a Jewish point of view as horsemeat as far as I’m aware is not kosha, nor should it be consumed by Muslims or the Romani. But if this was a concern for the media perhaps they should have instead focused on, or at least given proportional publicity to, the more commonly errant pigmeat?
That said, is there a legitimate reason for an outcry? Well yes.
I am yet to full understand how exactly horsemeat found its way into beef burgers, and obviously legally and ethically if you buy something that says ‘100%’ beef you should be guaranteed to receive a product that is indeed 100% beef under European regulations. Consumers have the right to receive that which has been advertised to them. It’s not illegal to sell horse meat however it is illegal to not package it as such with retailers in the UK potentially face fines of up to £5,000.
But is it dangerous? Top supermarkets along with the Food Standards Agency maintain that the horsemeat is completely safe. 100% safe in fact however it’s not quite as simple as that, the main (genuine) problem in this ordeal is that the source of the meat cannot be identified, a problem deepened by one of the companies responsible for processing the contaminated meat denying all responsibility and blaming un-named continental suppliers. There is the potential that, however unlikely, the animals were euthanised using intravenous aesthetics, rendering them unsuitable for human consumption due to toxins remaining in the meat. Without a verified source this will be hard to tell without further testing that the supermarkets do not appear to be doing but I for one believe that is it very unlikely that a source of this size would have been illicitly collected from riding ponies but instead from animals intended for consumption, slaughtered in much more horrific ways.
I think the main concern in all of this is not any sort of ethical outcry or a worry over public health but a reminder that perhaps we don’t always know where our meat comes from.
That’s why I buy local.