UK & World News
Horsemeat: Minister Defends Defra Response
A leading charity claims the government was made aware that illegal horsemeat was in the food chain more than a year ago.
World Horse Welfare says it had a sit-down meeting with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2011, to flag up the problem of horse passports being faked to allow the animals to be slaughtered
Roly Owers, the charity's chief executive, told Sky News that problems had been reported ever since the passport system was set up in 2005.
"We know that in November 2011 we attended a meeting where the issue of the passport system ? was discussed with Defra and local authorities," he said.
It follows claims from John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), in The Sunday Times that he warned the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of the potential scandal in April that year, but was ignored.
Mr Young says he followed this up a month later in a letter saying, "are the lunatics in total control of the asylum?"
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has mounted a robust defence of his department's actions following the claims.
He said he had spoken to the FSA's chief executive, Catherine Brown, regarding the claims, which were made before he took up his position.
"I have discussed it with the chief executive of the FSA this morning and she is going to go back through the records and see exactly what was said at the time," he told Sky News' Murnaghan programme.
The Cabinet minister, who has been accused of being "asleep at the wheel" by Labour, said his department could not have been more "active" since the recent revelations.
"We are making progress - a whole lot of premises have been investigated, a large amount of evidence has been taken, and in this country we have been extremely active. Three premises have been investigated, two closed down and a number of arrests made.
"We are completely determined to get to the bottom of this because no matter what the price of the product, the consumer should buy what is on the label. It is a fraud on the public."
He said British actions had triggered Europe-wide testing for horse DNA and bute - as well as coordinated probes into the crisis across the continent.
"Too much of this system is based on trust on paper, and there is not enough testing. We have to get back to more testing of products."
A Defra spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State this morning asked the Chief Executive of the FSA and Defra officials to look into allegations that information about horse passports had not been investigated.
"From those investigations, it's clear that Defra and the FSA have taken action on the issue of potential falsifying of horse passports, including individual enforcement action when information has been passed to us.
"In January 2012 Defra and the FSA increased checks on horse passports, meaning every horse was checked twice, and from last week no horse can enter the food chain until it is confirmed to be free of bute.
"The issues surrounding falsified horse passports are unrelated to the fact that horsemeat has been fraudulently passed off as beef in a number of products."
The FSA said "During the past 12 months the FSA has increased the number of staff working in horse abattoirs to strengthen our oversight of the system. And from last week we introduced a system where all horses are tested for bute, and carcasses are not allowed into the food chain unless they have tested negative. This complements the protection provided by the horse passport system."
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what do you think?
I dont suppose ministers took it too seriously, after all they proberly werent eating the stuff.
No, but there could have been frog spawn in their caviar. What a shame.
What's the equine equivalent of BSE? I suspect this kind of thing has been going on for 20+ years. The food industry is as dirty an industry as the illegal drugs industry.
And the legal drugs industry
every horse owner in the country can tell them whats gone wrong with the passport system. It relies totallly on every single horse owner and dealer being honest. Sorted.
"Meanwhile the boss of one of the country's leading supermarkets warned that consumers could end up paying the price for the horse meat scandal, as ensuring food has the best safety guarantees means it can no longer be regarded as a "cheap commodity"." I would willingly pay the extra, to ensure what was on the packet was also in the packet Supermarket and other major players in the food market have created the problem - by squeezing prices of there suppliers ever tighter in an attempt at maximising their own profits at others expense If you buy cheap food you will get cheap ingredients including products to bulk up the contents to make it go further
Agreed, for the greater part, you get what you pay for. It's the butcher for me from now on.
....and yes, the supermarkets are at fault. They are the same as large building and civil engineering contractors. They demand your undivided attention, get to invest in a load of new equipment, and to chop off all your smaller customers. Then they start hammering you on the prices.
And like the Etonians running the country....you have forgotten why many people have to choose the cheapest food. How shortsighted. Do you really think that people buy the cheapest because they prefer it? You would have really lost the plot if you believe that.
Dave, Is it because cigarettes and booze is so dear ?
The supermarkets are at fault maybe people should blank them and go to the little shops again at least the shop owner will give u proper service respect the customer knows where the products come from and folk would eat healthier
davenlesley The Mail and Express would have us believe that those on low incomes spend most of their money on cigs and alcohol because that is the stereotype that the government would want us to accept. Fortunately most of us can see it for what it is, and that those 'papers' are mouthpieces for the govt so they would not show it as it actually is.
If you see the blue tractor logo on a product does it mean the meat your buying has been reared in britain.i keep hearing conflicting answers to this question.????
Red tractor mate
The main thing that has come out of this is that it weems people are nt as upset at the idea of horsemeat as we thought they were. There could well be a place for it in the future..if the passport system was cleaned up and food producers labelled their food honestly. There are so many excess horses it could be a valuble food source. People like myself who don t want to eat it could make their own choices.
Good point Arthur, but I doubt if the relatively low price of horsemeat would be passed on to the consumer.
it would be interesting though to see how many people bought it knowingly :-)
We could also eat all the stray dogs that are put down each week. Only Joking. There is not a shortage of beef and it is not in our culture to eat horse so why would we? If it's because horsemeat is cheaper how long do you think that would last? And you might well find beef being upgraded to a luxury item by the taxman and becoming liable to VAT. It's far simpler to keep horsemeat out of our human food chain altogether.
Figures doesn't it. We pay for what were told is 100% beef which like everything else is constantly rising. Then when its finally released that its not just beef in our products we have to pay more to make sure that what we are getting is what's on the packet. I'm sorry but isn't there supposed to be measures in place already to stop this sort of thing happening, so what are we going to be paying extra for, again other organisations to check it properly or the same one with a couple more rules in place so they can make a hash of it again and so everyone keeps their jobs? At the end of the day the public has been defrauded.
It should read 'ministers were paid off in 2011'
You old cynic ! Dead right, though.
I doubt that a cabinet of old Etonians would have have lost any sleep over what the plebs were eating.
The latter I suspect. They are so dumb they can't even fiddle their expenses without getting caught. The problem is they think we are dumber than they are. Perhaps they are right because they are still in power and we are still having the pips squeezed out of us.
I suppose this will also be the fault of the last government. As for paying more for meat, why don't the supermarkets lower profit margins and dividends to shareholders, they should not expect the consumer to be the only ones to bear the brunt of production costs. I worked in retail for a while and could not believe the mark from cost to retail prices, not single or tens of % but 100's of %.
The butchers shop I work in works on a 38% profit margin more than enough to the point the owner will reduce certain products to regular customers my boss is on a good wage but not ott he would rather keep the customer happy rather than be greedy and selfish like the supermarket bosses
Entirely predictable that as soon as a fault in the system is discovered - or in this case, criminality - someone starts the ball rolling about increased prices. Rip off Britain is alive and prospering.
Absolutely right Brian. Instead of going on about extra costs I would like to know why such checks were not already in place to ensure supermarkets were not selling any old crap and labelling it beef
I would like to see a few supermarkets dragged before the courts to explain why they labelled horsemeat as 100% Beef. Ignorance is not an excuse either for them or for govt ministers. If they failed to have the checks in place then they are culpable.
As I said before the Government knew about it ages ago . It is all about spin keeping inflation down ,cheap meat even in the higher priced products .You can safely say every body has been eating contaminated meat products as David Cameron keeps saying we are all in this together. David must hate them Irish food inspectors for exposing the scam.
Bloody disgrace but then they can probably afford free range and organic on their expenses. As a parent this makes my blood boil and as a human it makes me want to protest loudly. We are being poisoned and lied to by food manufacturers under the noses and opne eyes of our Govt and no one does anything still.....
Did ComRes ask the question about the governments response after the news that they were warned 2 years ago?
Mark Price thinks meat's a cheap commodity in Supermarkets. We have one butcher's shop in our town center so there is no competition apart from a Tesco express. I went the butchers for a pie and the lady in front of me asked for a lb of stewmeat it came just over a lb and cost £2.79p in Morrison 's It's about £3.60p/ lb. Lamb chops, pork chops and steaks all cheaper than Morrison's and also cheaper than Tesco's
I think we ar going around with our blinkers on. we need the man from del monte to go and check out the meat producers. it will be down to him to say yes or no and yes the supermarkets are to blame. they call the shots.its down to power and price
How apt that, although it has an extra "f", "deffra" is a Welsh imperative, meaning "Wake up!".