Horse meat scandal hits kebab shops: why did it happen?


the slaughterhouse

They have long been the but of jokes about the quality and identity of their meat, but now kebab shops and other takeaway stores have been dragged into the horse meat scandal.

It turns out that they may have received 100% horse meat - labelled as beef or lamb - from a UK slaughterhouse and meat factory. But why is this happening?

According to a report in the Daily Mail, police raided a slaughterhouse in Yorkshire and a manufacturer in West Wales, and found horse burgers labeled as beef and horse meat kebabs labelled as lamb.

The owner of the slaughterhouse in question, Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse at Todmorden in West Yorkshire, denied any wrongdoing. He said that he had not been raided, and that he had never heard of the manufacturer. The slaughterhouse is licenced to kill horses and sell the meat in the UK.

The manufacturer, Farmbox Meats Ltd of Llandre in Aberystwyth, turned the horse meat into burgers and kebabs. The owners there said they did produce horse meat products, but not from the slaughterhouse in question, and not labelled as anything other than horse meat.

The authorities

The Food Standards Agency said in a statement: "The FSA has detained all meat found and seized paperwork, including customer lists from the two companies." Work has been suspended at both businesses.

Andrew Rhodes, the FSA operations director, told The Independent: "I ordered an audit of all horse-producing abattoirs in the UK after this issue first arose last month, and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be blatant misleading of consumers. I have suspended both plants immediately while our investigations continue."

This may be particularly alarming to many, because it is the first possibility that horses bred in the UK may have been killed and served here. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the BBC it was "absolutely shocking".

Why is it happening?

The investigations have a long way to go, but one suggestion as to why this scandal has hit is that manufacturers have been on the hunt for cheaper meat ever since the EU passed a rule on the use of 'desinewed' meat in April last year.

This is mechanically reclaimed scraps of flesh, which are pulled off the bones with a large machine like a tumble dryer. The EU ruled that this could no longer be described as meat. At the time it led to speculation that it would bring an end to bargain burgers and pies.

Manufacturers had other ideas though. They sought new cheap sources of meat, and looked to new overseas suppliers. It is thought that this allowed them to fall victim to those selling suspiciously cheap horse meat and claiming it was beef or lamb.

It starts to raise questions as to whether the FSA was wise to stop routine testing for horse meat in 2003.

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