Sunday, February 17, 2013

Inconceivable that Government Did Not Know Of Horsemeat Danger To Food Chain

The horsemeat scandal has rumbled on and on and still this government have not got a grip on it. On 9th February, I asked on this blog how long has this government known there was contamination in our food supply chain? I asked this question because it seemed to me that apart from the Labour party and the Daily Mirror, no one in the right wing press or broadcast media was asking this question directly, and it is a serious question to which we need a truthful answer.

So I'll ask again!

"How long has the Tory controlled Coalition Government known of contamination in our food supply chain?

Until we get a truthful answer to this question the government and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, have not got a chance of sorting this mess out and neither has the Food Standards Agency (FSA). If we do not have the answer to this question how can we know how far back to go in forms of checking our food, or in what products we need to be checking? Not just for horsemeat, but for phenylbutazone (bute) a drug banned for human use and for other meats such as pork which may have found their way into the food chain and into products sold as "beef", pointing to serious breaches of religious ethics?

Today we learn that a former manager of the FSA, John Young, who had worked at the Meat Hygiene Service, which was then an executive agency of the FSA says he wrote to the Government on behalf of Britain's biggest horsemeat exporter, and alerted them 22 months ago in April 2011 about a potential scandal  brewing that illicit horsemeat which tested positive with drug residues of banned substances had breached the human food supply chain. Mr Young claims he wrote to the then Minister of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Sir Jim Paice and he was totally ignored! Did Jim Paice notify his boss Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman?

The letter from High Peak Meat Exports warned that a horse passport scheme to stop the veterinary drug, phenylbutazone, (bute) getting into the human food chain was a "debacle", with 75 organisations issuing documents.

Mr Young also claims to have written to the FSA on 5th May, 2011, enclosing a copy of an unlawful horse passport and a warning that illegal horsemeat was entering the food chain. A passage in the letter asked FSA and the government; "Are the lunatics in total control of the asylum?"

Then in July 2012, 15 months AFTER they were first notified of the breach, the government's veterinary residues committee sounded the alarm warning that horses treated with bute were not being banned from the food chain. It warned of the risk of "serious adverse effects in consumers".

Mr Paice who left DEFRA in September 2012, said he did not "recall seeing" the warnings from High Peak or the veterinary committee.

Note Paice said he did "not recall" seeing the warnings and did not categorically maintain he "did not see" the warnings. In other words Paice may very well have seen the warnings and now the cat is out of the bag he is furiously back peddling and playing semantics with the truth. In my opinion, Paice did see the warnings, he just wants the public to believe he didn't and he knew of the dangers to our food supply and because of the damage this scandal could do to the Tory controlled government he did not act and tried to sweep it all under the carpet!

FSA Chief Executive, Catherine Brown, who took over her posts as CEO of the FSA last October  has said it would never be known how many consumers had unwittingly eaten horsemeat. "It's shocking" she said. What is also shocking is the fact that a letter had been sent to the FSA which she is in charge of and she has either ignored it (which I find hard to believe) or she has passed it on to Government and they have ignored it.  Which is it? Not withstanding that Catherine Brown wa the Chief Executive of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and  in July 2012, it was the Government;s Veterinary Residues Committee that  warned that horsemeat treated with bute was finding its way into the food supply chain and warned of a "serious risk to s consumers".

1)...When was Catherine Brown aware of the two letters that had been sent, one to Jim Paice and the other  to the FSA by John Young?

2)...And if she was aware, did she inform the Government immediately and in some urgency about the seriousness of the situation?

3)...If so who did she inform? Caroline Spelman? Jim Paice? David Cameron? Owen Paterson? All of them?

4)...Was she ever contacted back by Government about this situation? If so who by?

5)...Did Jim Paice tell Prime Minister, David Cameron about the serious problem of the possibility of contaminated horsemeat breaching the human food supply chain?

6)...If not why not? 

I fail to understand that such a serious breach would not have been brought to the prime minister's attention - immediately and as a serious matter of the utmost urgency! The nation's health was clearly being put at risk and it is beginning to look like the government knew all about this and did absolutely nothing for for approximately 22 months.

David Cameron said at the start of this scandal that this was simply a "food labeling" problem:

Did these breaches take place after the Tory led coalition government changed the regulations on food labelling in July 2010, just a few weeks after becoming the government and without the adequate consultation and safety checks such a move would require? 

Owen Paterson wants more checks on meat and less blind faith in paper work - really? Then how is he going to keep a check and does this mean that he has ignored paperwork that categorically told him there was a problem in the food supply chain?

How long ago did Owen Paterson know there was a serious breach in the country's food supply chain?

Did former secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman know of the two letters sent to the FSA by John Young former manager of the Meat Hygiene Service (an arm of the FSA)?

I categorically do not believe that Paterson who took over from Caroline Spelman, or the PM, indeed or Caroline Spelman and FSA CEO Catherine Brown did not know what was happening. It is absolutely inconceivable that they did not know. It is inconceivable that a letter of the magnitude of seriousness was sent by a former manager of the Meat Hygiene Service (which was then a part of the FSA) and that it was not acted upon, not once but twice! Or that the secretary for state, the PM and Agriculture ministers were not informed and that subsequently Owen Paterson was not informed when he took over as Environment Secretary.

If they all didn't know and "can't recall" (Leveson amnesia strikes again), then this government is not just totally incompetent, it is dangerously incompetent and if they did know, then they are dangerous liars.

Owen Paterson has been interviewed many times this past few weeks and each time he is interviewed all he basically rants about is "food fraud" and how it is "wrong" that description says "beef" when it is really horsemeat. We know all of this, what we now need from Paterson is some direct answers to direct questions, not rants designed to try and conceal what has been going on.

Paterson  is a fool to keep suggesting it is all down to "criminal activity", yes we know this has undoubtedly happened, but the problem is more systemic than that, the problem here is not only that food fraud has taken place, but more seriously, that horsemeat unfit for human consumption which may have been contaminated with bute has breached the food supply chain. The greater problem is that this problem with our food chain was actually known by Jim Paice and the PM before Cameron sacked him last September 2012, and that subsequently Owen Paterson knew of this when he took his new position up last September and that the Food Standards Agency also certainly knew of this.

It is said that the FSA only picked up on this scandal after their Irish counterparts decided to be pro-active and test some beef burgers, well this is obviously untrue as both the FSA and the Government must have been well aware of this breach *before* their Irish counterparts as John Young had written TWO letters bringing this to their attention about 22 months ago, which was ignored! - Why?

In another bizarre rant from Paterson on TV today he tried to blame the previous Labour government, saying he could only work with what he was left when he came into the job, well he didn't take over from the Labour government, he took over from Tory Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman.

In the last three years under the Tory led coalition government local authority regulatory services have been slashed by 32%
Budget cuts to the Food Standards Agency have contributed to a halving of the number of meat inspectors since the 1990s, though the number of meat plants has also fallen.

In 2010 the FSA had 2,000 employees and an annual budget of £135m but this was reduced as a result of the coalition government's spending cuts.

A shake-up by the coalition government led to the FSA handing over some of its responsibilities to government departments so it could focus solely on food safety policy and enforcement.

This is now as clear as mud, the government appear to have confused and muddled the responsibilities, creating new bodies.

The FSA is reliant on local authorities’ trading standards departments to monitor meat once it leaves the cutting plant creating a “postcode lottery” of varied funding levels from one area to another.

The Trading Standards Institute which protects the British consumer has seen their funding cut from £247 million to £140 million  which as resulted in the cataclysmic loss of offices, inspectors, services and consumer protection, part of Trading Standards job used to be to work with the Food Standards Agency. The loss of £107m in funding has seriously compromised consumer safety.
The current economic recession had provided rogue traders with opportunities to make money out of desperate consumers who are seeking to manage their restricted finances.
And she added that this was at a time when resources for consumer protection were also being squeezed hard. Nowhere has this been more apparent then in the virtually non regulated meat cutting plants.

Andy Foster from the Trading Standards Institute said some local authority sampling budgets had been cut by 50-70 per cent.
Even if the FSA decided to invest more money, he said, it would be hard to turn the clock back. “There aren’t the labs, and there aren’t the people.”

This is a clear case of the Government placing the public at risk with cuts that have not been properly thought out, just like in so many other areas. The NHS, education, defence, police, the list is endless.

The problem with horsemeat in the supply chain looks to have started around the time that meat inspectors were cut down from two to one and also if horsemeat was being used, the likelihood of a perilously trained inspector picking it up with the naked eye should have been good, as horsemeat differs from beef, it is darker in colour and the fat is more yellow.

This catastrophic scandal is not only the fault of fraudulent operators, it is not only the fault of the supermarkets, (who Cameron tried to blame recently), it is the fault of this government's insane austerity cuts which are now compromising public safety and this is the tip of the iceberg; our safety and that of children  is also being compromised in schools and the NHS, thanks to the ill thought out  ill informed choices of policy that the Tory led coalition government is recklessly pursuing and it would appear that Government have known about this for almost 2 years!

We now need to know exactly what products horsemeat or its derivatives has found its way into.

The blood-sports enthusiast Jim Paice was Minister of State at DEFRA until he lost his job in David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle in September 2012 and in a controversial move he was made a Knight by prime minister David Cameron and became Sir Jim Paice just a few days after being removed from his post in Cameron's "botched" reshuffle! At the time it was said that Cameron was awarding honors to placate sacked  male members of his government and bribing them to keep quiet. At the time it was thought it happened to enable Cameron to keep 5 Lib Dems MPs in his government, however, it was never fully understood why Jim Paice who was a farmer and said to have understood farmers was sacked from his position in Agriculture and replaced with an optician! (Perhaps Cameron thought an optician may have been better able to 'read warning letters' about the scandal which is now engulfing the country's food supply chain?)

The British public has every right to know exactly what has happened here and who knew what and when and if the Tory led coalition government has known about this for 22 months and tried to conceal it, then this is such a grievous matter, that the country will have no confidence in its ability to govern and they must call a general election.

It is absolutely inconceivable that the Government did not know about this problem! The government is  either terminally stupidly incompetent, or liars, or both!

1 comment:

TJ said...

I for one believe that someone has gotten very wealthy from this whole fiasco. Either an individual or a collective have obviously taken some form of massive kickback to allow this to happen. There is no other possible explanation in my opinion.

I've worked for the government and I know that there are good, decent folk who struggle for the best in your name, but when they are faced with cancerous and corrupt pieces of shit with no regard for public health, this is what we can expect.

It's truly very sad that money has taken precedence over truth. Those complicit in this aberration need to be cleansed from our ranks and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Anybody who attempts to detract on this matter should be gallowed.