by David Danna

When you bite into a juicy burger you think you know exactly what you’re eating. However since January 15th it has emerged that many of my fellow burger eaters are in for a surprise. DNA tests run on ‘beef’ products in many supermarkets and fast food restaurants in the UK including Tesco and Burger King revealed that the ‘beef’ was in fact 60-100% Horse or other meat. This scandal has now been growing for a month and has caught up 16 countries across Europe. The EU, France and UK have ongoing investigations promising to get to the bottom of this scandal.

However the larger issue here is that the regulations in place to insure product and food safety are clearly being ignored on a very wide scale. It shouldn’t take a scandal to insure that the food we are eating is actually what it claims to be. These regulations and food checks should be routine and regular so that if issues like this crop up, they get nipped in the bud before they have a chance to spread across an entire continent. As the world continues to globalize and supply chains get ever more complicated proper regulations that clearly define and test what you have purchased, in plain English, are crucial to the integrity of the system.

Regular testing of food at every stage of its production is not too much to ask of producers. In fact they should be doing this already to make sure the products they are putting on the shelves stand up to their own quality guidelines. Additionally every stage in the production and distribution of food should be held accountable. This would add accountability and keep companies like Tesco from dodging the accusations leveled at them by blaming their suppliers, a strategy currently being employed by their lawyers.

Beyond the deception that millions of meat eaters across the continent may have faced, there are potential health risks associated with Horse meat burgers. It has come to light that an anti-inflammatory pain killer used on Horses commonly known as ‘bute’ has been detected in a dozen samples of the contaminated beef in the UK. The UK’s chief Medical Officer quickly stepped forward to allay concerns of wide spread health issues. Her assessment is that there is a “limited public health” risk posed by the contaminated beef. Despite these assurances the Food Standards Agency plans on carrying out further tests on ‘beef’ that the UK authorities have confiscated.

If the European Union cannot figure out how to properly regulate and label what is beef and what is horse meat, how are they going to be able to properly manage the ongoing Euro Crisis? Food safety should be a simple automated process that should not need to occupy the minds of high ranking public officials. Yet it has been the topic of discussion in many parliaments and cabinets across Europe for the better part of a month.

Lastly, we in the media must make sure we do not blow this out of proportion, this ongoing scandal needs to be reported and investigated, it does not need to be whipped up into hysterics.

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