Never a better time to eat a burger
The labyrinthine nature of Comigel’s sourcing arrangements dragged half of Europe into the crisis. Comigel had subcontracted its ready-meal production to the Tavola factory, in Luxembourg. Tavola sourced the meat from the French company Spanghero, which bought the meat from a Cyprus-registered trader, who received it from a Dutch warehouse, which was supplied by a Romanian firm.
The crisis has spread across Europe to affect Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Bulgaria and, most recently, the Czech Republic.
Nestlé’s withdrawal of products this week has drawn in the world’s biggest beef producer, JBS Toledo, as the products were made by one of its subcontractors.
What started as an Irish problem is now a European headache that’s causing global ripples. The Irish meat industry will be hoping its international customers remember that the horse-meat controversy was uncovered by the Irish authorities. But it would also like them to forget that Irish plants produced some of the burgers in question.
8 Should I retrain as a DNA tester?There has never been a better time to dust down your CV if you have experience in animal or molecular genetics. DNA testing laboratories, such as Identigen in Dublin, cannot keep up with the demand for testing from the industry and regulators. DNA testing was seen as a luxury before; it has now become a priority, and Identigen staff are working around the clock to process tests. And with a new regime of DNA testing announced by the Minister for Agriculture last week, the future is looking healthy for geneticists.
9 What happens next?Who knows? When the Food Safety Authority of Ireland began its survey of beef products in November, nobody could have foreseen what would unfold. A battalion of tests on beef products is under way at national and EU level, and these results will inform what happens next. The EU has ordered member states to provide the first batch of results on April 15th, or immediately if tests are positive for horse meat or bute.
The UK Food Standards Agency expanded its testing programme this week. Products being tested will now include sandwiches, gelatin, beef dripping and stock cubes. Expect a fresh batch of withdrawals if horse DNA is found in these samples.
Although the focus has been on beef, it would be surprising if retailers and food companies were not testing other foods for adulteration. And what else could go wrong with our food? Well, a glance at the European Commission’s database for its Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed will make you look twice at your next meal.
The online portal lists foods that have been the subject of alerts by member states or rejected at the borders of EU countries. Recent cases include the high content of aluminium in sweet-potato noodles from China; an unauthorised insecticide in fresh strawberries from Egypt; unauthorised use of colouring in pomegranate juice from Russia: and aflatoxins – which have links with liver cancer – in pistachio powder from Turkey. The list goes on and on.
10 That’s all bit grim. Have you any horse-meat jokes to cheer us up?Certainly. Try these out:
They’ll never Findus in here, said one horse to another as they hid in a beef lasagne.
My doctor told me to watch what I eat, so I went out and bought tickets for the Grand National.
Has anyone tested veggie burgers for uniquorn yet?
A driver gets pulled over by a guard who tells him he’s over the limit. “But I only had a burger,” said the driver. “That explains it,” says the guard. “I knew I could smell Red Rum.”