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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Horse meat scandal, profit is the underlying motive

With the recent scandal of horse meat being found in our food mostly beef but also found in other meats I thought it’d be good to blog on this. For me it comes as no great surprise that big business tries and fobs us off with cheap meat and meat that isn’t even meat to make a profit. For me this is the underlying issue the quest for the blind drive of profit they will try and get away with whatever they can in order to profit from our ignorance. No doubt this has been going on for many years I even read somewhere Lenin raising concerns of contaminated meat back in the 20th century so its been going on for as long as we can remember. For as long as profit is the primary motivator to produce meat not for peoples needs or the betterment of their health then issues like this will happen time and time again . I did want to point out though which probably has not been mentioned so far is the fact that I feel and with probably good reason the regulatory bodies in this case the FSA the Food Safety Agency was not aware of traces of horse meant being found in our food well I was not surprised about this either I firmly believe that just like with other so called independent regulators they are firmly in the pockets of big business much like the independent press complaints commission and the Independent Police and Crime commission all a load of corrupt industry hacks no doubt. This for me realises many questions. Is any of our food to be trusted? I fear not I think we never really know what is in our foods that we eat on a daily basis. If we are in hospital or prison how do we have any idea what we are being fed day in day out. Fact is we don’t not eve the FSA did until this scandal broke. What gets me is that if this had not come out and the whistle had not been blown then this would still be going on today they have only reacted as they’ve been caught out otherwise we’d still be eating god knows what and probably still are. Ten companies dominate global food production and the drive for profit comes first. Big business politicians are generally obedient to the demands of the super-rich manufacturers. Profits soar while health problems mount up and industry employees suffer attacks on working conditions. Low pay denies millions from buying high-quality food. And unsustainable agribusiness production is wrecking the environment. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), horsemeat has been found in one in every 75 beef products available in the high street, as well as in cottage pies sent to 47 schools in Lancashire and ready meals sent to hospitals in Northern Ireland. The FSA was established in 2000 as a watchdog on food safety and nutrition, in the wake of the BSE scandal a few years earlier. Part of its remit is to monitor the three million cattle, 13 million pigs, 19 million sheep and lambs, 70 million fish and 800 million birds that are slaughtered every year in the UK for human consumption. Food writer, Joanna Blythman accused the FSA of having an "unduly cosy relationship with the food companies, bio-tech companies and large retailers". As if to demonstrate this the former CEO of the FSA, Tim Smith, is now Tesco's Global Technical Director. Staff numbers at the FSA have dropped by 42% from 2007-2010 reducing meat inspection costs by £13.5 million, and since then a further 13% of staff have been axed. Its budget has been cut by £44 million since 2010. On her blog Blythman comments further: "Now, providing a food-processing company has a paper trail that appears to demonstrate 'due diligence' and conforms to 'quality assurance' schemes, supermarkets take its products on trust. "So unless a whistleblower tips off the authorities or obvious casualties line up in the form of poisoned consumers, any funny business in the factory goes undetected." Moreover, council environmental health teams, which are responsible for inspections of food retailing, fast food and restaurants, have also been squeezed. According to Environmental Health News spending has been cut by "32% since 2009, outstripping cuts in most other service areas." Most workplaces can be expected to be inspected somewhere from every six months to every two years. Some commentators have suggested that horsemeat is being used as a replacement for Desinewed Meat (DSM), which itself was a replacement for Mechanically Recovered Meat (MRM), also known as 'pink slime'. This is produced by removing residual meat from animal bones by high pressure water. The difference between the two is that DSM is removed at lower pressure retaining some structure, but both are a far cheaper source of 'meat' than actual cuts. DSM was reclassified as a form of MRM around a year ago which means it can no longer be listed as meat. It's quite telling that a former FSA specialist, Dr Mark Woolfe, was quoted in the press saying that DSM "was a perfectly good ingredient for value products". In essence he is saying that low-quality food is adequate for those on low incomes who have to buy value products. He then goes on to justify companies using horsemeat as they searched for similarly priced 'meat' to protect their profit margins. Horses are also slaughtered in Britain, some of which are for domestic human consumption, but mainly for export. The UK government's system of passports for horses is meant to identify what drugs they have been treated with over their lifetime, including the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (Bute). In high enough concentrations Bute can have severe side effects in humans. However, the passport system is deeply flawed. 7,000 of these passports were issued by the Spotted Horse and Pony Organisation after it had its license to do so withdrawn in 2008 by Defra, a government department. This is just one of over 75 organisations which can issue such licenses. According to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals around 70,000 horses are untraceable in both the North and South of Ireland. With the suspected involvement of criminal gangs, horses worth as little as £10 (due to drug treatment) are being sold to slaughterhouses with false passports and identification microchips for up to £400. Although it is highly unlikely that sufficient levels of Bute are present in the horsemeat to seriously affect humans, a bigger potential danger is contamination by bacteria such as salmonella from 'back-street' abattoirs. As long as capitalist companies, driven by the profit motive, produce our food then that profit will always come first, before quality and our health and safety. A lax regulatory system and cutbacks in inspections, means that the horsemeat scandal and previous food scares clearly won't be the last. Only a nationalised food industry, under democratic workers' control, alongside taking other key sections in the economy into public control would allow resources to be devoted to making sure our food is safe and correctly labelled. Socialist Party news and analysis Toxic Tories - With extracts taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/753/16191/20-02-2013/food-adulteration-government-cutbacks-and-capitalist-profits

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