The horse meat scandal has opened up a Pandora’s box of questions about our food industry and what precisely we are eating.
Following the horse meat scandal in Europe, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) tested 16 products—all of which were found not to contain horse.
This was all well and good but what MAST also found was that a brand of beef pie contained not just no beef but—wait for it—no meat at all, while a French-style garlic dish was curiously garlic-free.
In the U.K. a brand of beef lasagna was found to contain 100 percent horse meat.
Other information like the origin of the meat, the exact category of beef, percentage of meat and fat were also missing from the products tested in Iceland.
The scandal has brought back memories of last year’s salt scandal when it was discovered that industrial grade salt was being used by food production companies instead of food-grade salt.
The difference there was that the salt was reportedly labeled as industrial grade but the companies reportedly somehow missed that.
What does this tell us about our food industry?
Profits are king and the industry is highly globalized with long supply chains and extensive transportation of goods. And buying local in the case of Iceland is not a guarantee of quality, though presumably the less processed the food the better.
But what is perhaps more of a concern is that we as consumers have become so disconnected from the source of our food (no, food does not come from the supermarket), so used to not being provided with sufficient information on product content.
It’s a fact that food labeling in Iceland is well below EU standards with nutritional information and country of origin information often missing as well as the list of ingredients of many imported foods, whether repackaged or not, missing in Icelandic or English.
The upside of all of this is that it has forced a long overdue (and hopefully thorough) discussion on food labeling in Iceland.
MAST has also stated that it will continue to monitor processing methods, recipes and labeling of food products and hopefully consumers are a little wiser.
Zoë Robert – firstname.lastname@example.org