Horsemeat scandal: probe failure by authorities dates back to 1998

British authorities were, according to The Guardian, aware that tonnes of condemned horsemeat was being imported for use by suspected fraudsters as long ago as 1998 but failed to investigate the criminal networks involved fully for lack of resources.

Over 15 years ago, environmental health officers from Rotherham council investigating a conspiracy in which hundreds of tonnes of unfit poultry meat was recycled in to the human food chain, discovered horse.office.feb.13that regular shipments of around 20 tonnes each of frozen “ponymeat” from China had been arriving at UK ports for months.

The horsemeat consignments had been condemned for the human food chain by the Chinese authorities but could have been used legally to make petfood, according to a source involved with enforcement. However a paper trail showed the horsemeat going in to cold stores licenced for the human food chain rather than for petfood and then disappearing in a separate suspected fraud, the source said.

A spokesperson for Rotherham council confirmed that at the time it had investigated “significant concerns relating to a wide range of food stuffs, including poultry, ‘ponymeat’, red meats, fish and frozen vegetables”. Convictions were secured over the poultry, but no one was charged in the other suspected cases.

The chain of brokers and cold stores through which the horsemeat was passing overlapped with a criminal chain in which condemned poultry meat that was green with slime and covered with faeces was being cleaned up with chemicals, repacked and relabelled with faked official health marks and then moved in to the human food chain, the source said. The fraudulently mislabelled chicken and turkey was sold across the UK to food manufacturers, schools and retailers including the discount supermarkets Netto and Kwik Save.

FSA and police investigations into the 2013 horsemeat scandal have uncovered a similar pattern, in which imported horsemeat passing through a system of brokers and cold stores appears to have been repacked and relabelled with faked official health marks as beef, the Guardian has been told, although they have not proved where exactly the fraud of mislabelling took place.

Food fraud: If verification is now standard, why isn’t it marketed at retail so consumers know?

Almost a year later, can we be confident that the beef burger is a horse-free foodstuff, asks Alison Healy in The Irish Times.

Every week seems to bring new scares: if it’s not fox masquerading as donkey meat in China, it’s the discovery of donkey, water buffalo and goat in sausages and burgers in o-HORSE-MEAT-COSTUME-570South Africa.

The chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Alan Reilly, believes burgers and processed-meat products have never been safer, because of the range of tests and regulations that have been introduced in response to the scandal.

“The industry will never be caught on the hop again, like it was with horse meat,” he says. Laboratory certification has become standard for anyone selling or buying meat, and testing the authenticity of meat products is the industry norm now. “So from a consumer perspective, that’s a hugely positive step.”

Both ABP and Tesco Ireland point to a range of tests and standards they have introduced to ensure that a meat-contamination scandal cannot happen again. ABP says it believes it has the most comprehensive testing regime of any European meat processor, including DNA testing of cattle and a strict supplier-approval process.

Tesco Ireland says it now has a world-class traceability and DNA-testing system across its food products. “The initial focus of our testing programme was on products containing beef, but things have evolved during the course of the year to include pork, lamb, chicken, fish and processed meats,” a spokesman says.

Tesco is also looking at ways of using tests to help identify the likely origin of some products. “For example, it can be very difficult to identify the provenance of products such horse-hamburgeras olive oil, rice or coffee by sight, smell and taste alone. Using our authenticity testing, which looks closely at the chemical make-up of a product, we can verify that what is in the pack is exactly what it says on the label.”

That’s all nice, but consumers have heard all this before, only to be eventually disappointed.. Over time, or bad economics, or both, someone will cut corners. The best producers should be marketing the authenticity of their products and make the testing to validate those claims available for public review.

After horse meat scandal, food producers test for kangaroo and dog

The horse meat crisis has led the world’s largest food manufacturer Nestle to test for the presence of meat such as kangaroo and dog, according to the head of food safety at the firm’s research centre Dr horse.meat.09John O’Brien.

As reported in the Irish Times, Dr O’Brien, a former head of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, people working in food safety had now become molecular detectives. “Not only are we concerned with horse, we are also keeping an eye on kangaroo, dogs, goats and a few other species and asking questions. Could any of these find their way into the food chain? So we have probes for all of those.”

Woman fined for letting horse poop inside UK McDonald’s

A woman and her horse go to a McDonalds drive-thru.

Staff won’t fill her order.

horse-poo-picSo the woman and her horse go into the McDonalds.

The horse says, “order for me, I’ve got to take a dump.”

The horse didn’t make it to the bathroom.

Maybe time for Depends.

Shit happens.

But maybe this isn’t so unusual, since it is Manchester. Watch the horse in a pub celebrating the royal baby birth the other night via The Daily Show (which you can see if you live in North America).

A horse is a horse of course, except when it isn’t

The horse meat scandal in Europe keeps getting bigger but, according to Elizabeth Weise of USA Today, U.S. officials say it’s unlikely there’s any horse meat hidden in U.S. meat products.

Or, like products from Iceland’s high-end natural food company Gaedakokkar, horse.laughthere’s no meat at all in its meat pies.

Genetic tests have found ground horse meat in beef in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. On Friday Taco Bell outlets in Britain found traces of the meat in what was supposed to be 100% beef. The company has removed all beef products from its menu in the United Kingdom.

There is no link between Taco Bell suppliers in Europe and the United States, the company said.

Canada is the largest exporter of horsemeat to Europe, according to the Humane Society of Canada.

Two companies are currently trying to open horse slaughter plants in the United States, on in Missouri and one in New Mexico. USDA is reviewing their applications.

It’s “doubtful” any dangerous pathogens were in the horse meat Europeans have inadvertently eaten, said Doug Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

“It has been found in meals and products that are highly processed—the bad bugs would be cooked away.” It’s the public’s trust that’s been broken “and since almost all food safety at retail is faith-based, the faith has been violated.”

 

Audits inspections never enough; arrests in horse fraud

As UK police made arrests at the two food plants raided jointly with the Food Standards Agency on Tues., the uber-witty Economist says “big retailers and producers have brands to protect, so they are vigilant.”

Hilarious.

An audit by Tesco of its suppliers “is one of the most feared and respected things in the industry,” says Michael Walker, a food-safety consultant. “How come it didn’t pick this up?”

Because audits and inspections are never enough.

Fail: Horse meat in lasagna may be donkey

As questions become increasingly shocking in the EU horsegate scandal – do retailers have any idea what they are selling, was it the mob, how does donkey taste – Rob Mancini writes about being Italian and lasagna.

There are two prerequisites required for an Italian: being able to adequately cook and to kick ass in soccer. So when I come across a story where horse horse.laughmeat is used in lasagna, this irks me. FSAI reports

Findus’ own checks revealed that some of its frozen lasagnes contain more than 60% horse meat.  The products have been withdrawn from sale from Tesco stores in Ireland, but may also be on sale in independent retail shops. Tests are currently underway to determine if the horse meat contains the veterinary medicine, phenylbutazone, commonly known as “bute”.

Nature Of Danger:

Phenylbutazone is not permitted in the food chain as it can pose a risk to health. In rare cases it can cause a serious blood disorder.  However, if horse meat that is contaminated with bute is consumed, the risk of damage to human health is considered to be low.

A proper lasagna must have a delicate balance of veal and pork gently caressed in a slew of ricotta cheese peppered with a touch of fresh nutmeg. I know what I’m eating tonight. Awesome recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/lasagne-bolognese-al-forno-recipe/index.htm

‘Not in our culture to eat horse meat’; horse, pig DNA found in Irish supermarket burgers

Traces of horse meat have been found in burgers on sale in some of the country’s busiest supermarkets, food safety chiefs have revealed.

Scientific tests on beef products sold in Tesco, Dunnes StoresLidlAldi and Iceland uncovered low levels of the animal’s DNA.

Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), said there was no health risk but also no reasonable horse.meat.09explanation for horse meat to be found.

“The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried,” he said.

According to the research by the FSAI, one sample of burger goods, Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers, showed about 29% horse meat relative to beef content.

“Whilst there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process,” Prof Reilly said.

“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.”

Racetrack drugs put Europe off U.S. horse meat

For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

But according to the N.Y. Times, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.

In October, Stephan Giguere, the general manager of a major slaughterhouse in Quebec, said he turned away truckloads of horses coming from the United States because his clients were worried about potential drug issues. Mr. Giguere said he told his buyers to stay away from horses coming from American racetracks.

“We don’t want them,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

Some 138,000 horses were sent to Canada or Mexico in 2010 alone to be turned into meat for Europe and other parts of the world, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Organizations concerned about the welfare of retired racehorses have estimated that anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the population sent for slaughter may have performed on racetracks in the United States.

“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian on the faculty of Tufts University and a co-author of a 2010 article that sought to raise concerns about the health risks posed by American racehorses. He said it was reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses “in your food chain.”

Horses being shipped to Mexico and Canada are by law required to have been free of certain drugs for six months before being slaughtered, and those involved in their shipping must have affidavits proving that. But European Commission officials say the affidavits are easily falsified. As a result, American racehorses often show up in Canada within weeks — sometimes days — of their leaving the racetrack and their steady diets of drugs.

In October, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers found serious problems while auditing the operations of equine slaughter facilities in Mexico, where 80 percent of the horses arrive from the United States. The commission’s report said Mexican officials were not allowed to question the “authenticity or reliability of the sworn statements” about the ostensibly drug-free horses, and thus had no way of verifying whether the horses were tainted by drugs.

“The systems in place for identification, the food-chain information and in particular the affidavits concerning the nontreatment for six months with certain medical substances, both for the horses imported from the U.S. as well as for the Mexican horses, are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by E.U. legislation are applied,” the report said.

Horse meat remains a delicacy in Paris and in other countries for an older generation of Europeans. Henri-Previen Chaussier, a butcher who sells exclusively horse meat in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris, said demand from individual customers was still strong, but he had only one restaurant on his client list, the Taxi Jaune in the First Arrondissement.

 

Ontario racehorses being sold for meat as slots shuttered

The theory of unintended consequences underscores Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel, Cat’s Cradle.

According to QMI, it’s possible thousands of Ontario broodmares have been slaughtered for meat since the Liberal government announced the cancellation of a slot-machine program that generated millions in revenue for the horse-racing industry, an equine veterinarian says.

Mark Biederman, who works just outside Windsor said while he’s not sure how many broodmares have been sold for meat, he estimates it could be hundreds, if not thousands.

He said many of his clients have sold theirs.

Broodmares are retired female racehorses used to breed the next generation. But with the horse-racing industry in dire straits — facing hundreds of millions in losses — the old girls aren’t worth much anymore.

“The broodmares are the first casualty of the industry,” Biederman said. “There isn’t any market for them other than going for meat.”

Ontario’s horse-racing industry reels in $354 million a year from the soon-to-be-dead Slots at Racetracks Program, which divvies up profits from slot machines at tracks between the industry, the track owners and the government.

The province announced in the spring its plan to axe the program and divert the money to health care and education instead. Slot machines have already been removed from some racetracks in Ontario, and they’ll all be gone by March 31, 2013.

The move was met with opposition from people in the industry, and has forced some major tracks — such as the Windsor Raceway — to shut down.

It also means many horse owners can no longer afford to keep the animals.

Biederman says business is down 50% at his veterinarian clinic. He’s had to lay off staff and reduce hours. When the program officially ends in March 2013, he said he’ll probably pack up and leave the province.

“If the slot program is ultimately cancelled, I think that’ll be the death of the industry. I don’t think there will be any way to stay in Ontario. I think you’re gonna have a mass exodus of horses.”

Or as Vonnegut wrote,

“I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.”

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”