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They eat horses, don’t they?

Friday, 15 February, 2013

In the magazine business, the less-is-more pivot is executed when the jovial publisher cuts the number of pages but keeps the cover price as it is. The consumers won’t notice the difference, is the theory. The gangsters behind the horse-meat lasagna scandal have borrowed this page, as it were, and European supermarkets are now filling up with products whose ingredients have been cheapened to maintain the price. As with the magazine with fewer pages, nobody noticed a difference in the taste when horse replaced beef in frozen lasagna.

This is a huge story involving a continent-wide web of slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, companies in France, including a subcontractor of Findus, which shipped the horsemeat to Luxembourg where it was turned into the lasagna that then filled freezers across Europe. But what started as a beef-burger scandal in Ireland and then became a lasagna outrage in Britain is now expanding exponentially. In France, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and hachis parmentier have been pulled from shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, the French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its chili con carne.

Findus is full of surprises

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency in the UK, called for retailers to test their dishes containing ‘pork,’ ‘chicken’ and other meats. Retailers are currently focusing on ‘comminuted‘ beef, she said, calling it ‘the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.’

Because horsemeat is cheap, the gangsters in the food industry decided to mince it up, stuff it in the lasagna, call it ‘beef’, freeze it and then laugh all the way to the bank, safe in the knowledge that the consumers sticking it in the microwave will never taste the difference. Findus and lots of other companies in the food industry are now playing the “It wasn’t me guv” card, but it won’t work. If they had wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it was coming from they could have found out and refused to use it. They didn’t want to, of course. What mattered was keeping those profit margins up.

Yesterday’s news that Greek unemployment had hit a new record of 27 percent in November means that price pressure is becoming unbearable for consumer product companies in the EU and some of them are responding to this pauperization by producing food that is being debased constantly. This just in: “Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat.”

This one is going to run and run.

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