Have you read about the horsemeat scandal in the UK? It seems that many products being sold as containing beef, have actually contained horsemeat. More and more products are being discovered across many brands as well as the supermarkets own brands. Most of the products are processed ready meals, with things like lasagne and spaghetti bolognese having been added to the scandal so far. Initially it was claimed “some” of the meat was horsemeat, but now it appears in some cases 100% of the meat has been found to be horsemeat.
One of the French food companies involved in the scandal, bought the frozen meat from a Cypriot food trader, who had bought it from a Dutch food trader, who had purchased the meat from two slaughterhouses in Romania. The French company then sold the horsemeat to a factory in Luxembourg, which was then sold under the Swedish brand Findus. This meat appears to be making it’s way into countless brands and products – with Findus just being the tip of the iceberg.
There is also concern that the horses may have been given the horse drug bute (phenylbutazone), which depending on the source you read, could be very harmful to humans if it gets into the food chain.
What ARE You Eating?
Most of the outrage so far seems to be at the fact that people have been eating horsemeat. Which yes, is outrageous and completely unacceptable (can you imagine if a similar scandal happened with pork?) But isn’t the biggest issue here that no one knows exactly what is in these processed food products? If they didn’t even know (and tell the consumers) that a frozen lasagne contains 100% horsemeat and 0% beef, how can we have any confidence about the other ingredients in the meal?
Even if the “beef” label is right on a product, with so much trading and smoke and mirrors masking the origin of the meat, I think we can be fairly confident a frozen ready meal is never going to contain grass-fed organic meat. In fact, I wonder how many different animals have contributed to the meat found in one ready meal? I guess it could be hundreds.
And what about the other ingredients? Is the tomato base of the spaghetti bolognese mainly tomatoes? Or is it bulked out with cheaper chemicals? Are the tomatoes that are used organic, or rather grown in glass houses with chemicals to help them grow as quickly as possible. Can we even be certain the tomatoes aren’t genetically modified?
How Can You Get Confidence About Your Food?
The only way to be certain about what you’re eating is to make it yourself. However busy you are, I don’t think there is ever a good reason to by ready made instant meals. It’s just not worth it. It’s also very important that as well as making your own food, you’re careful about the ingredients you use, particularly meat. It really is worth buying organic, grass-fed, pasture raised meat, from as close to the farm as you can get it (perhaps you can order from the farm directly, or use a local butcher who does). Always ask your butcher where the meat is from and how it was raised – and if he doesn’t know, it’s probably time to find a new butcher.
For most people reading this, ready meals aren’t likely to be an issue. But eating out probably is. It always bothers me that when you eat at a restaurant, or in a food court, the same issues apply. Where do they get their ingredients from? If they don’t make a big thing about their meat being grass-fed and organic, well, it probably isn’t. In the long term, the best thing is to ask in the restaurant. Hopefully this way the message will get through that people care, and want to eat good quality ingredients. There are some good restaurants who pride themselves on their local, seasonal organic produce – you just have to find them.
Isn’t it ironic that the sale of raw dairy, from a small farm with well raised animals, is illegal in many places; yet it seems to be common practice to sell food products without even being able to trace what the contents is, or where it comes from?
What are your thoughts on the food industry and the ingredients they use? And what about the horsemeat scandal? I’d love to hear where you stand, so please share your comments below.