For the past three weeks the government has, as usual, asked the companies who contribute to the government’s funding if they wouldn’t mind awfully doing something about the fact that ‘value’ food isn’t what people thought it was. Specifically, it was bits of old horses instead of cows. So if the supermarkets and supply chains could possibly get around to doing something about not breaking the law any more, not advertising falsely and not selling meat that was unfit for human consumption that would be much appreciated. No rush, obviously and equally obviously no hint of anyone being prosecuted for breaking the law, unless they were dreadful foreign types in faraway countries.
Our brave supermarketeers were portrayed as victims, this time of the dastardly Eastern Europeans. Sinister crime rings were dumping horses into the food chewed by plucky Brits. Nothing to do with the fact that the supermarkets didn’t know what was in their food and were breaking the law at all.
What happened was this. Tesco, Findus and other major food producers and retailers were caught red-handed with horse-meat in their burgers. First it was supposed to be ‘trace elements’ of DNA in the burgers, the kind of contamination you might get from picking up a pork chop with bare hands. Next it was 29% horse. Now Findus lasagne has been found to be 100% pure horse meat. Last week the head of the Food Standards Agency decided to lie about it on Radio 4. He said that nobody knew how the horse meat had got into the food chain and there was no danger.
Obviously if he didn’t know how the meat got into the food chain he could not know whether it was fit to eat or not. No-body challenged him that I’ve heard. Because fundamentally, we really don’t care.
We want it cheap. Cheap is good. More is better. We want to watch more and more cookery programmes and eat more and more processed meals. Read any Mintel report you like to check the truth of that. I’ve asked in five-star hotels if the eggs were free range and got asked what that meant and then what difference did it make?
When it comes to food, people want to say they care. But as Tesco almost say every day, very little helps.