Saturday, February 9, 2013

Horsemeat: Another Fine Tory-Led Government Mess?

Horsemeat in UK food chain.

Back in July 2010 when the Tory-led coalition government was just 2 months old, the then Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley was warned that his introduction of the policy of less regulations on the food and drinks industry could carry disastrous consequences, he and this feckless coalition government chose to ignore those warnings.

The government were warned, that "their attitude to food labelling is probably wrong"

On 20 July 2010 the food authenticity programme was transferred from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to Defra along with food labelling and composition policy not related to food safety or nutrition.

Food standards legislation set out specific requirements for the labelling, composition and, in some cases, safety parameters for specific high value foodstuffs which are potentially at risk of being misleadingly substituted with lower quality alternatives.
The legislation makes sure consumers are not mislead as to the nature of food products when it is sold to them.  It also makes the playing field level for food producers, so they have established standards they can work to when producing well known or traditional foodstuffs.Source: DEFRA

On July 20th, 2010 in a "Written Ministerial Statement" the Prime Minister wrote this:

Food Standards Agency in England 
The Government recognises the important role of the Food Standards Agency in England, which will  continue to be responsible for food safety. The Food Standards Agency will remain a non ministerial department reporting to Parliament through Health ministers. In England, nutrition policy will become a responsibility of the Secretary of State for Health. 
Food labelling and food composition policy, where not related to food safety, will become a responsibility of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  
It says on page 13 of the Coalition Agreement:

We will introduce honesty in food labelling so  that consumers can be confident about where  their food comes from and its environmental  impact

So the government have been playing around with food labelleing? Perhaps they may like to inform the public just how much they have eased up on the regulations and if their changes may have helped influence this situation? I do not have any faith in this government, their track record for competence is utterly abysmal and many times this government have been found wanting and acting in a totally feckless way, bending over backwards to give the food industry (and all industry) exactly what they want. From relaxing of food labelling, to junk food making its way into our schools and the relaxing of health and safety rules in the work place, this government have meddled. (Many companies within the food industry also happen to be Conservative donors)

Many European countries eat horsemeat, but we do not in the UK, or at least we thought we didn't! I don't care how many times the Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson states that there is no danger from eating horsemeat, with all due respect, this is what former Environment Secretary, Conservative MP John Gummer said about British beef when he was photographed allegedly feeding his daughter a beefburger at the height of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy  (BSE - mad cows disease), telling us there was nothing to worry about then.

At the time, Mr Gummer said: "I can assure the public there is no cause for concern."The Government has taken all the advice it can from the experts. Their conclusion is that beef is perfectly safe."

Shortly before people started dying of the human form of BSE "new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease." 
and British beef was banned for 3 years, in fact, Russia only lifted its ban on British beef in November 2012.

The Government say they are making changes to the food provision programme:

To enable the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (‘FIC’)

The consultation started on 7th November 2012 and ended on 30th January 2013.

This consultation seeks views on the Government’s plans to make underpinning domestic legislation to enable the food information to consumers (FIC) (Regulation (EU) No, 1169/2011) to be enforced in the UK.
The aims of FIC are to improve the information provided to consumers so that they are able to make informed choices about the food they buy, and to update legislation to reflect current industry practice and consumers’ changing information needs.
In bringing in legislation in support of FIC, existing regulations will be revoked. Most of the impacts of this is discussed in the Impact Assessment (IA) however there are additional questions related to 
  • Alcohol claims and
  • Ice cream, and cheese and cream
These are discussed further in Annexes 1 and 2 of the consultation document. Source: DEFRA

In my opinion the public now have a right to view the Impact Assessment and to know who responded.

  • How long has the government actually known about possible horsemeat in the UK food chain?
  • Why doesn't supermarkets know what's in the food they are selling?
  • Why did it take the British Government so long to react to the Irish horsemeat findings?
  • When will we know the results of all the tests?
  • The government have no idea as yet about food safety & food authenticity, yet they have said the public can go on buying and eating processed food, in the absence of any tests results how can they possibly give advice like this?
How can Owen Paterson possibly make that statement, when he doesn't even know where this horsemeat originated from and the conditions it was slaughtered under and if it was classified fit for human consumption and by whom? How does he know that these horses have not been treated with the painkiller phenylbutazone?  Horses treated with the painkiller phenylbutazone are not allowed in the food chain as the drug is thought to be dangerous in humans. How does Paterson know that this meat has been kept hygienically and slaughtered correctly? The truth is he doesn't know, he can't know because he and this government do not even know where the meat used in some products originated from!

Mr Paterson said: "British food prides itself on scrupulous traceability", well if it does, then why doesn't Mr Paterson know where this meat originated from and what tests it has undergone and when? How come Findus knew that their products were not what they were being sold as 12 days ago, yet took absolutely no action to halt production and withdraw their products from sale?

This government have made poor people so poor that they have no choice but to buy cheap food and it is cheap food that is mainly affected, so once again it is the poor and vulnerable that will pay any price to be paid for this coalition government's total incompetence.

The chancellor has announced that welfare payments will rise more slowly than forecast, saving £3.7bn by 2015/16 for the public purse, but with charities warning that poverty levels will rise.
In his autumn statement George Osborne confirmed that he would be breaking the traditional link between benefits and inflation next April with many parts of social security rising by just 1% a year.

If food prices rise as a result of this fiasco, will the government lift the cap on benefits, or is he content to see even more children than the estimated 200,000 extra that are expected to fall into poverty, be adversely affected as a direct result of his Tory government policies?

No comments: