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Inside Story

Horsemeat scandal: Who is to be blamed?

As the scandal involving horsemeat sold as beef widens across Europe, we ask how can consumer confidence be restored.
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2013 14:43

Meat products from across Europe have been found to be contaminated with horsemeat - it is a scandal that says a lot about modern eating habbits and the desire for ever cheaper processed food.

"... because we've got this very very complex food chain now, with particularly processed foods, with one manufacturersupplying the carcus, another processing the meat and so on and then it going to the retailers, where responsibility lies and where something goes wrong, is actually quite tricky to establish. Obviously what it does need is rigorous checks all the way through the process."

- Martin Bentham, home affairs editor of London Evening Standard

In some cases, ready meals like beef lasagne, were found to contain up to 99 percent horsemeat.

Blame has been variously cast on regulators and food manufacturers.

And officials have even hinted at international organised criminals playing with a multi-million dollar industry - they want stringent checks of the meat industry.

But will it be enough to counter an international criminal conspiracy? And will it restore consumer confidence?

In Brussels, EU agriculture ministers met to discuss the horsemeat scandal that now affects 16 countries across the European Union.

Tonio Borg, the EU commissioner for health said: "We are proposing two series of tests over an initial period of one month, but the intention is to continue with the tests over a period of three months, but the first results, so that we can have an idea of what is going on, will be issued after thirty days, six weeks."

"I think the responsibility lies with the retailers because that is the point of sale. It only enters the food chain when somebody buys it to eat so if you were going to pick a point, I'd say they have to make sure that their food chain is water-tight. So I'll put the emphasis back on them."

- Andrew Webb, editor of Lovefood.com

In the UK, the horsemeat scandal comes at an embarassing time for the government. A cross-party group of MPs says the Food Standards Agency (FSA) needs tougher powers to force producers to test food.

The government cut the agency's funding and staff in 2010 leaving it with what was called a 'diminsihed role'.

UK ministers also have plans to reduce food labelling standards. And Britain is trying to seek an exemption from EU laws that require a label declaring the amount of meat on all food products.

So how much do we know about the multi-national supply chains that provide our food? And how much do we really want to know?

Inside Story, with presenter Sami Zeidan, discusses with guests: Andrew Webb, the editor of Lovefood.com, and author of the book: Food Britannia; and Martin Bentham, the home affairs editor of London Evening Standard.

"I will definitely change my way of shopping and I won't buy prodcuts with meat inside anymore. I will buy meat separately and vegetables speparately but not ready made products."

Severine Levenq, a mother of two

 



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Al Jazeera
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