Industry concern over damage from horsemeat burgers
Meat industry representatives have warned that the discovery of horse and pig DNA in burgers on sale in the UK could do serious damage to the reputation of the industry.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said it was “very concerned” over reports from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) that pig and horse DNA had been found in a range of beef products, including burgers sold by Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.
BMPA director Stephen Rossides pointed out that it was not a food safety issue, but said it was “vital and urgent” that thorough investigations were carried out to get to the bottom of what had occurred.
“The great bulk of food products, including meat and meat products, are safe, produced to good quality standards and correctly described and labelled by food manufacturers. UK consumers can trust the food they buy,” he said.
“But this episode – rare and unusual though it is – undermines consumer confidence and trust in the meat industry, and causes reputational damage to it. We must get to the bottom of what went wrong and why, and how such an incident can be prevented in the future. Our customers and consumers must be able to put their trust in our industry.”
Eblex sector director Nick Allen also warned that the incident could do some damage to to the image of meat in the UK.
“These findings are disappointing and utterly frustrating to the industry in England. We work very hard to ensure beef products are high-quality and clearly labelled. Traceability is high, so we can find the provenance of a product, but you cannot legislate for someone in the supply chain making a mistake,” he said.
“There is a full investigation taking place and we need to wait and see what the results of that tell us before we can make any judgement on this at all.”
Unison – which represents meat inspectors in the UK – has already seized on the scandal, blaming the Food Standards Agency (FSA) cuts for the failure of UK authorities to pick up on the contamination sooner. Unison assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said the incident was “yet another example of why the industry isn’t fit to regulate itself” and called for plans to move towards self-regulation to be abandoned.
“It is vital that we continue the independent physical inspection of meat in the UK and the rest of the EU,” she said.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had launched an urgent investigation into how the contamination had occurred, and was holding a meeting with food industry representatives this afternoon to “discover the extent of the potential problem and to investigate how this contamination might have occurred”.