Monday, February 11, 2013

This horse keeps running

So as I suggested we're going to primarily try to blame the supplier; who happens to be Romanian which no doubt will please certain political parties. Oh, but of course there's more to it than that. We can't just accept some blunder along the supply chain; hell we can't even seem to accept a bit of dodginess; nope we're going for full-out Criminal Conspiracy no doubt undertaken by criminal masterminds. So hey no-one at our end to blame, it must have been a highly complex laid out scheme... yeah.

In fact, and don't laugh, the system apparently works. Yep the ability to trace the meat to the Romanian supplier can be read as the system doing what it's supposed to. A delightfully bureaucratic response in that they don't really care what's being transported or what's going to be done with it provided it has the right stamps so blame can be apportioned correctly. Except it didn't.

Traceability goes down to the animal. So horse and cow go in; horse and cow come out. Somewhere at this point tracing stopped. So how does this break down legally? Ouchy.

The products themselves were mislabelled which is a breach of both member state and EU legislation. Except the mis-labelling was performed in all honesty; the packagers really thought it was beef. What can be held against the suppliers? "Which ones?" is the question. What appears to have have happened is that somewhere along this very long chain of 'pass the meat product' a batch of horse was labelled as cow. At the very least we have neglect; potentially fraud.

Tearing away from the blame game the important question is "Is it safe?" and that's difficult to answer. If the original slaughterhouse purchased the horses correctly it can be considered safe; there's nothing intrinsically wrong with eating horse meat. This becomes a simple case of mis-labelling, as I've said, from either neglect or fraud. However if the slaughterhouse picked up the horses 'on-the-side' to add to beef; there's no telling what they might have contained.

Hopefully this is all a mess rather than the sort of conspiracy which some might think would make this more 'exciting'. As fallout I see tests being conducted by the end-packagers probably voluntarily (as they've no desire to let the FSA etc. stick their noses in any more than they need to already) and perhaps an examination of why this all took so long to trace - exactly why does meat need to pass through so many hands before it ends up for sale?

Rightly or wrongly Romania will end up holding the unpleasant end of the stick as some will no doubt use this news to further their own political agenda. What needs to be looked at is the possibility this could happen in any country where they have slaughterhouses that, quite legally, process both animals; in this instance I think Romania just happened to get 'caught-out' first.