Horsemeat… The scandal so far

opinion

So three weeks after I first posted about the horsemeat scandal or #Horsegate, & it still runs on, in fact it’s getting worse. But the one thing that remains a constant is me calling for the State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs resignation.

Mary Creagh MP made such an outlandish comment at the start of this fiasco, that she either knew more than the FSA (and wasn’t telling), or was trying to score political points at the cost of safety of the voting public. In our public exchanges on Twitter, Mary Creagh always quotes & links to the Channel4 News website, where as I’m a little bit more thorough, and quote actually from the FSA (Food Standards Agency) website. Of course I informed her of the flaw in her argument:

unlike you I actually got my information from the FSA not the media. Just apologise & resign

when the Wakefield MP posted on the micro-blogging site:

Contaminated UK horse meat consumed in France, Food Standards Agency tells Channel 4 News: http://bit.ly/UnOZqh

The contamination that Mary Creagh MP is talking about is phenylbutazone or Bute as it is more commonly known. Bute is banned in the United States, but is still used in the UK to treat Ankylosing spondylitis (or chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton with variable involvement of peripheral joints and non-articular structures. IE a chronic, inflammatory arthritis of the spine.). In food stuffs, it is banned by the FSA from entering the food chain, although the research into it’s side effects are less than conclusive, there maybe some evidence that it maybe carcinogenic, but every respected piece of research is countered by another.

Not to blow this too far out of proportion, the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies released a statement via a Government website. She stated that:

 Horsemeat containing phenylbutazone presents a very low risk to human health.

And to put this into context for people like Mary Creagh MP, she then went on to quantify the level of risk to the public:

 At the levels of bute that have been found, a person would have to eat 500 to 600 burgers a day that are 100% horse meat to get close to consuming a human’s daily dose. And it passes through the system fairly quickly, so it is unlikely to build up in our bodies.

So at the moment Mary Creagh MP still hasn’t resigned, despite the real lack of evidence of danger to the general public & the scare-mongering of her constituents & Joe Bloggs at large. Her reply on the BBC’s Question Time was just staggering when confronted with this:

That’s presumably in adults, but obviously the dose for children would be a  lot lower.

How much lower Mary? How many 100% horse burgers would a child need to eat on a daily basis, 100, 200? But as usual, she went on to avoid a direct answer to Mr Dimbleby’s question.

So on Friday 15th February I cranked up the pressure a little bit more, tweeting:

*LATEST NEWS | #Horsegate 2501 total test so far; 99% horse free; 29 have horse DNA above 1%;All neg on Bute. Still waiting @MaryCreagh_MP ?

According to the FSA (Food Standards Agency) website, testing went as follows:

As of 10.00 am on 15 February, the FSA has received the following information:

  • Total results: 2501
  • 2472 of these (almost 99%) were negative for the presence of horse DNA at or above the level of 1%
  • 29 samples, relating to seven products, were positive for the presence of undeclared horse meat at or above a level of 1%
  • At least 950 tests are still in progress

So whilst having horse meat in food which is meant to contain beef may be un-palatable or the ‘”Yuk-factor” as ITN’s Chris Choi called it, it actually does you no harm. But it does, as two double Michelin starred chefs Michael Caines & Raymond Blanc, promote the idea that “why isn’t horsemeat palatable to the UK public?”.

If you take the perfectly reasonable stance that Michael Caines tweeted:

    Let’s be clear here, #horsemeat is eaten all over Europe so it’s safe to eat, but we have a right to know what it is we are buying & eating

Admittedly, this was actually part of a series of tweets, but this final one sums it up perfectly.

If MP Mary Creagh had taken the stance that the public had been de-frauded, then she might have had more support. For crying out loud, I might have actually supported some of her statements. But no, even on the BBC’s Question Time she persisted with the line about Bute.

As I’ve said in a previous post – Food Madness:

I’d have no problem eating horse, & apparently it’s quite a normal thing to do particularly in France.

So here it is in a nut shell. It is fraud, nothing more – nothing less, which would be kind of ironic if MPs started using terms like that, considering they are still tarnished with the expenses scandal. The bigger picture of this is that it could be a real shot in the arm for a high street butcher. I’m really lucky in the fact that I have a proper old fashioned high street where I live: with butchers; a greengrocer; fish-mongers & a newsagents. So could horse meat be the shot in the arm that these independent traders need? I don’t see why not.

It really is only the social convention & how society has been formed in the UK over the generations, which is stopping us from accepting this potential new source of meat into our diets. Granted the likes of Mary Creagh & her Labour MP mates would have you believe it’s all bad, & the fact (YES, facts Mary) are that horse meat isn’t bad for you, & unless you plan on eating 500-600 pure horse meat burgers a day (& I think she should be more bothered about obesity than Bute, if that’s the case). There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with horsemeat – Just label it as such.

And that is the crux of this. Scaremongering MPs, who even at the time of writing this are sticking to their guns & regurgitating media pages about Bute in Horsemeat. The fact is this: There is no conclusive evidence that Bute can harm humans at any level of normal consumption. Yes, it is unacceptable that unwanted chemicals are in the food chain in the first place, but let’s not blow this completely out of proportion.

If Mary Creagh MP & Tom Watson MP really want to do something constructive: they can start breaking the lobbying power of ‘Big food’; give the FSA some real teeth & enforcement powers; help small business, such as local butchers through the tough times. And if they actually have some information which is going to aid the investigation of the FSA, then hand it over, rather than using it in the media to score political points.

What the likes of Mary Creagh MP & Tom Watson MP seem to have lost sight of is this; they work for you, not you for them. Something they should do well to remember, and if Mary Creagh doubts the veracity of this, maybe she would do well to remember the effect of Edwina Curry on egg production.

As a final footnote to this post, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told the Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in April 2011. So clearly this was already happening on Mary Creagh’s party watch, she even said as much on Question Time. So really Mary, you & your party aren’t whiter than white, you’re as much a part of the problem as any of the other political parties, So maybe try being part of the solution, not part of the problem.


Comments

2 Responses to “Horsemeat… The scandal so far”
  1. lee taylor says:

    Great piece,saw Question Time and thought that mary Creaghs attempt at political opportunism was part of the reason people dis-like politics and politicians. So many more pertinent questions that need to be asked. There is a rubbish article in The Observer today which is gathering a lot of similar criticism. I have put a link to your article in the comments.

    • chefhermes says:

      Hi Lee,
      Thx for your comment & support, there is a Channel4 documentary tonight (Monday 18th Feb: Dispatches).
      No doubt they will uncover more details, unfortunately I can only only take information which is freely available.
      Sadly, I can actually see this sorry saga running for a while yet.

      As for Messers Creagh & Watson, yes they will never cease to try to score political points, rather than actually help solve the problem. Their constituents must be so proud.

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