Turning the Tables

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 9:17am

The Smiths had it wrong when they sang Meat Is Murder. As we now know, these days it's as likely to be Red Rum.

One intriguing aspect of watching Europe tear itself apart over the horsemeat for beef scandal is the different reactions of various parts of society.

The Romanian government and horsemeat industry's insistence that the country's abattoirs sold horsemeat as horsemeat and that any mislabelling took place after export seems remarkably calm against the conspiracy theories.

There are people who are out there to defraud, who are looking to cheat
French Minister

But now some Romanians are suggesting a conspiracy is at play. The head of the country's main food producers' association claims that the mislabelling was the work of "an international ring".

The British environment minister said "criminal substitution" was probably to blame for horsemeat discovered in packaged meals supposed to contain beef.

France's agriculture minister said: "There are people who are out there to defraud, who are looking to cheat."

The EU has decided a conference is necessary to reassure consumers. Surely this is overkill as the body has already said the issue should be seen as a labelling rather than a health matter?

One former British government food safety expert has blamed the EU for banning the mechanically recovered meats called pink slime - despite the unappetising foodstuff posing no health threat. Companies have had to seek cheaper alternatives.

How have consumers reacted? Unlike governments, not with panic but with humour. They may be annoyed at the false advertising but that hasn't stopped the Shergar jokes flying thick and fast. Still, until the culprits are discovered no doubt even the most unflappable of consumers will be saddled with nagging doubts.