No Laughing Matter – Horsemeat Scandal

Ever since the Food Safety Authority Ireland revealed on January 15th that certain frozen beef products contained pork or equine meat, the scandal has exploded internationally. In my opinion, I don’t think the general public understand the severe consequences this may have. I mean, the horse puns are very entertaining but it appears that people can’t see the drastic problems this scandal has uncovered.

This is not an isolated situation either. Cases have been popping up around Europe, including the infamous Findus frozen lasagne sold in the UK which, it was found, contained up to 100 % equine meat.

Personally, I don’t know what is more shocking: the fact it contained 100 % equine meat or that it was not spotted during the production process. Sky News reported that a delivery driver highlighted the poor practices employed by the producers and the purchasers. He explained how instead of being given official documentation, he would sometimes receive a handwritten note saying “meat” or “frozen meat”.

At times it was so difficult to determine what meat was being delivered the drivers resorted to smelling the meat to determine if it was beef or lamb. This reveals that this is not just a problem at the production stage: it is a problem that is rife within the industry.

Another worrying problem relates to the drug phenlybutazone, also known as bute, that may be contained in equine meat. Once a horse is given this drug its meat cannot subsequently be used for the production of cat or dog food as it can be fatal to these animals. Bute has been known to cause bone marrow failure within humans, among other health issues, so it is disturbing to think that there could be traces of this drug in our food. While officials claim that there is only a minute risk to humans, I personally do not feel comfortable eating these products.

The next startling aspect is the severe damage this could cause to the beef markets of Ireland and Europe. Beef is one of the goods most frequently exported from Ireland so the fact there has been mislabelling of a severe nature can only have a negative effect on the market. It is suspected that a further 16 countries in the EU will also be affected by this scandal, which makes you wonder how long this was going on for. As more cases are discovered, more damage will be caused to an already fragile European market.

As a Muslim, I am discouraged from eating horse so I am worried that I may have eaten equine meat which clashes with my faith. In the Jewish faith it is completely forbidden. It cannot be overlooked that this will cause worry for people of certain religions as they will feel deceived and unsure as to what is suitable for them to eat. All I know for certain is that I will be very wary the next time I consider buying a frozen meal containing 100% ‘beef’.

Adam Assahli

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