Monday, 11 February 2013
Forget The EU, We Need A Moratorium on Meat Imports Now
Yesterday I listened to the stuttering and muttering UK environment secretary while he was doing the rounds of the television studios in a desperate attempt to assure us that our food is safe for consumption.
Why don't I believe him? Like many others, how can he insist our food is safe if much of it hasn't been tested for 10 years or more? The main problem is not about criminality and labelling but safety. What we eat has a far greater effect on our health than moderate smoking or drinking.
On the Sunday Politics show, when Andrew Neil asked if it was his intention to place a moratorium on meat imports until tests are complete and results prove our food is safe, Owen Paterson mumbled he couldn't do that because the EU regulations forbid it. So the UK government's hands are tied by eurocratic rules. I assume this also applies to the Scottish Government.
So the health of the nation comes well behind poor EU legislation. That fact has been blindingly obvious for some years now but it was the first time I witnessed a senior politician voicing it. Food labelling, in certain instances, is dreadful. I buy 'freshly squeezed' orange juice because it's much easier than peeling and juicing 10 oranges. Most supermarket labels only state 'a product of the EU'. But I digress, labelling is another post and this one is about whether our food is safe to eat.
As I've said before I stopped buying any form of supermarket meat when the EU refused to introduce a directive for supermarkets to label meat and chicken products which were halal. Having researched the source of imported chicken I decided chicken would only be on my menu if it was from local butcher. He promises they are UK chickens and not imported and will show the paperwork for their provenance if asked.
Speaking of chickens, Australia have a problem with them and no doubt there is a problem here too as yet to be 'discovered'.
So the story grows, like Topsy and it should be no surprise to those who watch the EU devise their directives. Food can be moved between EU countries without any checks or balances on the product. It's the paperwork that matters and, as Richard writes, fraudulent paperwork is easily acquired. (He also has some excellent posts about how meat is transported around the world).
So far we know that the Irish food standards agency discovered horse in meat products produced by an Irish company and sold to the UK and other European countries. Nobody really has a clue how long the deception has been and only now it's slowly coming to light that meat products on UK shelves involve France, Holland, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Romania. Now France is suggesting that what was analysed as horsemeat is actually donkey meat which has come from a country not known for its stringent food quality laws.
That fact in itself should surely have politicians insisting a moratorium should be applied immediately to all meat imports. France and the US were quick enough banning British beef when the 'mad cow disease' outbreaks occurred here and many Scottish farmers went out of business.
We have a right to be protected if EU law is found wanting and it is seriously wanting in the case of food regulation.
One fact I can predict - regardless of the outcome of government or retailer testing, our weekly food basket will increase in price. The supermarkets will ensure their customers pay for their own safety. The wise will buy from local shops if possible and that only be good for local economies.