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ALREADY PAST HORSE MEAT It’s naive to think a bolstered FSA is the answer to such scandals.


If we do not open up to the suggestions and predictions that this article offers us then we will be forked by the meat fork. Jabbing us twice with ease and leaving us completely lifeless.

Joanna Blythman The Guardian 16th February 2013


here are growing calls for the Food Standards Agency’s powers to be strengthened to avoid a repeat of the horsemeat scandal. Labour attributes the FSA’s inability to either pre-empt the problem, or to get a grip on it when it happened, to Tory cuts in 2010. These, it says, left the agency hopelessly weakened. It’s an initially attractive argument. Bolster the FSA, carry out a few more tests here, tighten labelling there, and we can all go back to eating our processed meat products with relish. But it’s naive. The truth is that the FSA, set up by Labour as the nation’s food safety watchdog after BSE and other food scares, was useless from its very inception. The first FSA boss, John Krebs, set the tone when he came into the job, endorsing the “safety” of GM food and dismissing organic food as “an imageled fad”. His successors have since nurtured the comfortable relationship he established with “big food” (pharmaceutical and biotech companies, global food brands, supermarket chains) while continuing to treat food campaign groups, and any organisation or voice critical of the existing food system, as the lunatic fringe.



“It comes from an increasingly dysfunctional industrial food system that is rotten to the core.”

Consequently, a top job at the FSA has marked out its incumbents not as tireless fighters for higher quality, safer food, but as prime candidates for well-paid jobs in the food industry. One example of this revolving door is Tim Smith, the agency’s CEO until last October. Now, in his new role as Tesco’s group technical director, he has his hands full explaining to customers why Tesco burgers and spaghetti bolognese weren’t all that they seemed. Ill-equipped by temperament or inclination to upset corporate interests, the FSA has gently cajoled the food industry into curbing its worst excesses by getting companies to sign up to voluntary agreements and promising sounding pledges. That done, the FSA has seen its job as down playing the risks posed by these companies’ products. So, whenever revelations about our industrialised, globalised food chain surface, the FSA can be relied upon to pipe up like a parrot with its wellrehearsed script, designed to reassure

us that we can have confidence in the food we eat. Boosting trust in the existing food system, irrespective of whether it is merited, by telling us that the latest scare poses no health risk, is the only language the FSA speaks. That strategy has become difficult to maintain, however, as the horse meat story unfolds. New to the job, the agency’s current boss, Catherine Brown, has been more candid than her predecessors when she admitted that she would not eat a Findus lasagne. This may be why in recent days the FSA has chosen to field its more bullish director of operations, Andrew Rhodes. Heaven forbid that consumers should ever pick up the slightest hint that it might be unwise to eat processed food. But if we are ever to make any progress towards having a saner, more wholesome food system, this defence of processed food has to stop. The FSA, the government and the public health establishment must have the guts to tell us the truth: if we want to eat safe,

wholesome food that won’t make us fat or ill, we need to choose unprocessed ingredients and cook them ourselves. The very essence of food processing is taking apart natural foods and reinventing them in a value-added form that is more lucrative for their makers. The horse meat fiasco has merely provided us with a snapshot of just how under-policed, and liable to fraud and adulteration, manufactured ready meals and processed meat products really are. Yet today there are still millions of portions of “convenience” food on supermarket shelves bearing a paragraph-long list of obscure ingredients, most of which have undergone many technological interventions and crossed continents by way of a long, circuitous supply chain.

having the FSA acting as their faithful press officer and fielding awkward questions when food scandals arise, this is hardly surprising. We’ve been encouraged to believe that it’s fine to live on processed food, providing we choose low-fat, low-cal versions with green traffic lights. But it isn’t. Processed food is inherently dodgy. It comes from an increasingly dysfunctional industrial food system that is rotten to the core. That’s the new message the FSA needs to get across.

Yesterday, following days of silence, the large food retailers finally spoke – but only after criticism from Downing Street. With the exception of Morrisons, they had retreated to their bunkers. But since they are well accustomed to




The packaging is the same but the price is slashed. So it must be the same burger right? Wrong.


We will be dissected piece by piece by the longer side of the pie fork if we do not taken action against what is discussed in this article.

Felicity Lawrence The Guardian 24th January 2013


ublic health minister Anna Soubry is worried that poor people are fat these days. When she was a child they were taunted for being “skinny runts” you could spot a mile off, but now she reckons to be able to identify them not by how thin and hungry they are, but by their obesity. She has a point. Class determines how obese you are, how long you live, what sort of illnesses you are likely to suffer from. But if Soubry wants to use her role

Some supermarkets have these economy beefburgers on special offer. This “special offer economy burger” may look just like the economy burger that was on sale at a higher price the week before – its packaging, for one, will be the same. But that’s precisely the trouble with junk food: it rarely owns up to its secrets.

“That’s precisely the trouble with junk food: it rarely owns up to its secrets.” to do something about it, she might like to investigate the current burger scandal for a less judgmental view of why these health inequalities persist. Poor people eat a lot more cheap burgers and processed meats than more affluent households, who tend to choose more virtuous wholemeal bread and fruit and vegetables. This has more than a little to do with prices. A posh beefburger that is made of 90-100% beef will set you back about £1. An “economy” beefburger,


on the other hand – the sort caught with horse and pig DNA by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland last week – could be bought for about 12p.

In fact, this “special offer economy burger” will probably have been made to a different specification under special contract to the supermarket. It will have been constructed down to a price fixed by the retail buyer. Many low-income families rely on these special offers, especially in recessionary times. If the burgers are down to 10p each, they look like a bargain. So what’s in them? I asked a key player in the business of supermarket meat to explain how the process might work. Unsurprisingly, he did not want to be identified.


Economy beefburgers tend to have a meat content hovering around 6065%, but by law a product with that description need be only 47% cow, as opposed to horse or pig or whatever bargain-basement ingredient a rogue supplier happens to have on hand. So our knock-down burger tends to have more fat and more water in its specification (water being the cheapest ingredient of all) and nicely heavy with it. It will also have additives to make sure the fat and water stay in when you cook it. The meat itself, that 47% legal minimum bit, isn’t just what you and I think of as meat – that is, lean muscle meat, but is allowed to contain fat, collagen and connective tissue in the same proportion as they naturally occur in the cut being used. So if a manufacturer wants to make a really cheap beefburger – he can’t afford to run at a loss for too long, and even the powerful supermarket buyers recognise this – he can use a cut such as beef brisket. That’s on average 32% fat, 19% connective tissue, and 3% collagen. And yes, collagen is what you are thinking, the stuff film stars inject into their lips to make them look bigger than they really are, and it’s a top tool in the cheap meat industry’s box. So the “meat”, which is less than half the burger already, can in fact be a third fat.

During a promotion a manufacturer may be told he can add extra fat, maybe around 20% extra, which is all legal, so long as it’s declared as added fat on the label. Beef fat on average contains 6% collagen. So you can whack in a bit more collagen as well as fat. The crucial thing to understand is that economy foods at rock-bottom prices such as these are a reconstruction of deconstructed parts, bought around the world from wherever is cheapest. Exchange rate fluctuations might affect where you want to buy your components from week to week.

on protein, so the manufacturer might add concentrated proteins in various forms. These might be extracted from boiled-up bits of animal even the French wouldn’t eat, such as hide or gristle and other offcuts, which are then dried and ground down to a powder that goes into a “seasoning” mix. They might alternatively be extracted from animal waste by chemical hydrolysis. In the last scandal over the wrong species in meat, when pork and beef DNA was found injected into a wide

“People on low incomes suffer far higher rates of diet-related disease, and not just obesity.” When our food is denatured and deracinated in these extenuated supply chains, perhaps we should not be surprised that the species sometimes get mixed up. When a meat processor is constructing this product to hit a particular price, he and his supermarket buyer also know they have to hit the percentages laid down in the regulations. The knockdown burger, with its payload of fat and water, might tend to be a little light

Mothers from low-income groups are more likely to have children of low birth weight, who, in turn, are likely to suffer poor health and educational prospects as a result. They have more childhood eczema and asthma. They have higher rates of raised blood pressure, thanks to their processed diets. They are more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease and strokes. They suffer more cancers of the lung, stomach and oesophagus. They have more cataracts caused by poor nutrition than those in other classes. Adulteration of food, legal or otherwise, is no laughing or sneering matter.

range of cheap chicken, the source was protein extracts from hides. The other handy thing about protein concentrates is that they bind in water. Burger jokes have been ten a penny over the past week, but the impact that this sort of junk has on people’s lives is not funny at all. People on low incomes suffer far higher rates of diet-related disease, and not just obesity. They have higher rates of anaemia caused by lack of iron, especially in pregnancy.




WE WASTE FOOD FEEDING LIVESTOCK Don’t blame vegans – the global demand for meat both perpetuates hunger and exacerbates climate change.


We will feel the wrath of the financial and physical cost of livestock with the pickle fork, which will grab us with its mechanical claws and not let us go.

Mimi Bekhechi The Guardian 22nd January 2013



t is ironic that in the wake of the Tesco horse burger scandal, writer Joanna Blythman would attempt to scare us off healthy crops such as quinoa and portray meat eaters as eco heroes. Our burgers and bangers hold their share of dark secrets – and they don’t just lie in the origin of the animals whose flesh is ground up and extruded into patties and links, although those secrets are plenty dark enough. They also lie in the tremendous waste and environmental havoc wreaked by the meat industry. Bolivian villagers aren’t the only ones faced with the prospect of going hungry. It is estimated that more than 850 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. But the solution to this crisis does not lie in abstaining from quinoa (whose meteoric rise in popularity cannot be attributed solely to vegans, many of whom have never touched the stuff) and other healthy vegan foods. According to Worldwatch, it is animal agriculture that is the real villain because meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain – the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Growth in meat output requires feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat eaters and the world’s poor.


“A staggering 97% of the world’s soya crop is fed to livestock.”

With hundreds of millions of hungry people worldwide, it is criminally wasteful to feed perfectly edible food to farmed animals in order to produce meat, rather than feeding it directly to people – especially when you consider that it takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make one pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce one pound of pork. Even fish on fish farms are fed up to five pounds of wild-caught fish in order to produce one pound of farmedfish flesh. This is inefficiency at its worst. Yes, your beef or pork may be locally grown, but what about the animals’ feed? Vegans aren’t gobbling up all the soybeans – cattle are. A staggering 97% of the world’s soya crop is fed to livestock. It would take 40m tonnes of food to eliminate the most extreme cases of world hunger, yet nearly 20 times that amount of grain – a whopping 760m tonnes – is fed to farmed animals every year in order to produce meat. The world’s cattle alone consume enough food to sustain nine billion people, which is what the world’s human population is projected to be by 2050.

Because vegans eat plant foods directly, instead of indirectly eating bushels and bushels of grain and soya that have been funnelled through animals first, even vegans who sometimes eat exotic foods grown in other countries still make a fraction of the impact on the environment that meat eaters do (many of whom also eat exotic foods). Enough food for a vegan can be produced on just one-sixth of an acre of land, while it takes 3¼ acres of land to produce sufficient food for a meat eater. Vegfam, which funds sustainable plant food projects, estimates that a 10 acre farm can support 60 people by growing soybeans, 24 people by growing wheat or 10 people by growing maize – but only two by raising cattle. According to a United Nations report, the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”, and the UN has concluded that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger,

fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. A study published last October by the European Commission found that switching to a vegetarian diet results in twice the carbon emissions savings of switching to an electric car. Aside from their environmental impact, the meat, dairy and egg industries cause immense suffering to more than a billion animals every year in the UK alone, most of whom spend their entire lives crammed into dark, filthy sheds. They do not get to breathe fresh air until they are on their way to the abattoir, where many have their throats slit while they are still conscious. We have the power to end hunger and save lives – both human and animal – every time we sit down to eat. We should take that responsibility with more than a grain of, ahem, quinoa.





Ever since Sweeney Todd became an unwanted supplier to the pie trade, customers have sought reassurance about what they are eating.


If the preconception of cheap meat continues to hang over us, we will end up being left to burn by the toasting fork.

Mark Price The Daily Telegraph 16th February 2013


etween 1820 and 1860 attention was drawn to the issue of food adulteration and this resulted in the 1875 Sale of Food Act. The Act established two principal offences: the mixing of “injurious ingredients” and “selling to the prejudice of the purchaser a food not of the nature, substance or quality demanded.” More than a hundred years ago, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s were established with the sole purpose of supplying safe and healthy food to Londoners of the day. The current food news will quite understandably alarm a new generation about what they may be eating, just as BSE sent similar shockwaves more than 20 years ago. However, in some of the more hysterical reporting, two issues have been conflated to undermine confidence. Many of the food products sold come from factories that deal with multiple species – they may freeze pork sausages, beef burgers and lamb joints all on the same day. In doing so there is a small risk of cross-contamination if the equipment is not properly cleared between production runs.



“ The cost of livestock, the price of feed and greater demand put pressure on supply. ”

At Waitrose, we have a team of 70 food technologists whose job it is to make sure that the products we put on our shelves are precisely as we have specified. If not, the product is withdrawn. These procedures and tests are not new, and withdrawals as a consequence of human error are a feature of the way the food industry does business. If, like Waitrose, 100% of your beef comes from British farmers and is grown and processed to your own bespoke high standards at a dedicated abattoir, your quality should be assured. The risk emerges if you then send the beef to a third party to freeze, who mixes in another species because of a breakdown in their process. Our response to make sure we remove that risk is to now set up our own freezing plant at our beef abattoir so that no cross-contamination can take place in the future. Where product will need to go to a third party for further processing we will increase our testing regime and ask our producer to do the same.

But the issue of cross-contamination is wholly different from finding the substantive part of a product contains horse meat. That is clearly unacceptable. But how and why might that happen? We only stock fresh and frozen beef, pork and chicken from British farmers. This means we are able to work closely with our farmers and constantly check the quality and provenance of our meat. The only exception to our Britishonly sourcing policy is lamb, which is a seasonal meat and requires some New Zealand lamb to make up our requirements outside the UK season. Mirroring our approach at home, we have established a small group of New Zealand farmers who work closely with us to complement our English and Welsh lamb producers. If, however, meat is being purchased blind from outside the UK, and sometimes even via the internet in bulk, it is less easy to find those guarantees that full knowledge and traceability give.

If, at the same time, there is a requirement to hit a price point for consumers under financial pressure then there will be an inevitable strain in the supply chain. The question is “Who can sell the cheapest stuff?” I’m afraid it is inevitable that there will be a slackening of product specifications – even if, not as concerning as the current situation, it’s less mint in spearmint gum or not as thick a layer of chocolate on your biscuit. What makes the equation even more difficult is the current large increase in the cost of livestock, as the price of feed and greater demand put pressure on supply. As a consequence, it may well be the case that, somewhere along that long supply route, somebody has looked to cheat and take advantage of these circumstances either for their own personal greed or to keep a company afloat.

climate change, greater urbanisation, and the spread of a Westernised diet in the developing world. If something good comes of the current scandal, I hope it is the opening up of a debate around the true economics of food and a determination on the part of everybody in the food industry to apply renewed rigour to their processes and testing regimes to ensure that customers can relax and enjoy the food they buy.

The simple fact is that food cannot be seen as a cheap commodity when so many factors are working against that premise, including population growth,



DRUG CONDITIONED MEAT The extent of which are meat is treated before it reaches us.


While drug conditioned meat may seem useful at first like the spork, it will then scoop us away like a spoon and into oblivion.

Bryan Walsh Time 12th February 2013


ack in 2005, when I was a reporter based out of TIME’s Hong Kong office, I spent more time than I care to remember in the backyard chicken farms of Asia. This was the time of the H5N1 avian flu, which broke out regularly in chickens and occasionally (with fatal effects) in human beings and which always seemed to be one click of the genetic lock away from threatening the entire world. To prevent that mutation from happening – one of that would have allowed the deadly H5N1 virus to

“Had an H5N1 human pandemic ever occurred, we may well have been helpless.” spread easily from person to person, like a human flu virus — health officials in affected countries would do their best to track and eradicate outbreaks as they occurred in animals, often by simply culling an afflicted flock. But there was always one country where that plan never quite worked: China. Chinese chicken farmers had an unfortunate habit of prophylactically


dosing their birds with Tamiflu, the only antiviral drug that showed any effectiveness against H5N1. (U.S. preparations for a possible bird-flu pandemic included stockpiling millions of doses of the drug.) As a result, it became that much more difficult for health officials to track H5N1 outbreaks because Tamiflu-dosed chickens could still get infected and spread the virus but without showing the symptoms that would set off medical alarm bells. And overusing Tamiflu also eroded its

effectiveness as over time the H5N1 virus was able to develop a resistance to the drug. Had an H5N1 human pandemic ever occurred, we may well have been helpless. In the years since, you might have hoped that Chinese farmers had learned to be a bit more judicious when it comes to dealing out high-end human drugs to their animals – but that’s not the case.


A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that China, already the world’s largest producer and consumer of antibiotics, is heavily using the drugs in animals as a way to enhance growth and prevent disease in crowded conditions. And as happened with the overuse of Tamiflu, China’s animal drug addiction is leading to increasing antibiotic resistance, which in turn could lead to serious problems for people who depend on those drugs to fight infections. “It’s urgent that we protect the effectiveness of our current antibiotics because discovering new ones is extremely difficult,” said Zhu Yongguan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the lead author on the PNAS paper. “Multidrug resistance is a global problem and must be addressed in a comprehensive manner.”

large-scale Chinese pig farms, searching for the presence of antibiotic-resistant genes. (The medicine tends to be poorly absorbed by the animals, and so much of it does end up in the manure.) It wasn’t hard to find them. Researchers counted 149 unique antibiotic-resistant genes, some at levels 192 to 28,000 times higher than control samples.

It’s no secret that Chinese farmers use high levels of antibiotics in animal feed. The question for researchers is whether that might be a direct cause of increasing antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. For the PNAS paper, researchers actually sifted through the manure-enriched soil found near three

But Chinese farmers are hardly alone in their reliance on drugs, as new numbers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week showed. In 2011, 29.9 million lb. of antibiotics were sold in the U.S. for meat and poultry production – nearly four times the amount sold to treat sick people.

And most of the animals taking the drugs likely aren’t sick; as in China, the antibiotics are used for growth promotion and to help the pigs or chickens survive crowded conditions on industrial farms. At least that’s what we think – producers of meat and poultry aren’t required to

“In 2011, 29.9 million lb. of antibiotics were sold in the U.S. for meat and poultry production.” Since the manure is often sold as fertilizer or washes downstream into rivers, those antibiotic-resistant genes can spread to other forms of bacteria, decreasing the overall effectiveness of the drugs in human beings.

There’s some hope: last year the FDA issued draft guidelines that would ask the pharmaceutical industry to change labeling and marketing practices so that antibiotics would be used only on sick animals, rather than for growth promotion on healthy ones. But even those guidelines would only be voluntary. In China and in the U.S., drugs are likely to remain a part of commercial meat production – and the rest of us may pay the price.

report how they use the drugs, which drugs they use, on which animals and in which quantities. That makes it difficult for scientists to directly connect the heavy use of antibiotics in animals with antibiotic resistance in people. In a New York Times story last year, one public-health researcher compared the lack of data collection to “facing off against a major public health crisis with one hand tied behind our backs.” But efforts by the government in the past to more tightly regulate antibiotics in animals have met with failure, thanks in part to powerful agriculture interests.





Warnings are now added to cigarettes but what about meat consumption?


It looks unsuspecting a topic as we have led to believe that meat is an essential part of our diet but like the fish fork, we have no idea when it will strike and how it will fork us all.

Dr. Neal Barnard The Independent 4th February 2013


oday is World Cancer Day.

When you consider the efforts to fight cancer, the image that most readily springs to mind might be the graphic warning labels added to cigarette packets sold in the UK and other countries, which have helped curb smoking and its associated health risks. Similar warnings should be placed on meat and dairy products for the same reason. Unlike foods from plants that enhance our health, meat and dairy products have the same hazards as cigarette smoking, including increased risks of strokes, heart disease and cancer. According to Cancer Research statistics, nearly 425,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed across the UK in 2010, the most recent year of statistics – and more than 150,000 Britons died from the disease that same year. The World Health Organisation has determined that dietary factors account for at least 30% of all cancer in Western countries and up to 20% in developing countries. Processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, ham, and the like, is so strongly linked with bowel cancer – the second-largest cause of cancer death in the UK – that no one should ever eat it, according to



“Meat and dairy products boosts hormone production, which increases the risk of hormone-related cancer�.

a recent report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, based on a systematic review of more than 1,000 papers on bowel cancer carried out at Imperial College London.

If this information leads you to think of your fork as a powerful weapon, you’re on the right track: it can defend you against cancer. It all depends on how you choose to load it.

Countries with a higher intake of fat, especially fat from animals, such as meat and dairy products, have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Analysis of data from almost 15,000 male physicians found that men who consumed red meat at least five times per week had a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who ate red meat less than once per week. Other studies have concluded that meat consumption may increase the risk of kidney and pancreatic cancer.

Plant foods are rich in fibre, which speeds the passage of food through the colon, effectively removing carcinogens and changing the type of bacteria present in the intestine to reduce the production of carcinogenic acids. Vitamin C, an antioxidant found in citrus fruits and many vegetables, may lower risks for cancer of the esophagus and stomach by neutralising cancer-causing chemicals formed in the body and blocking the conversion of nitrates to carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach.

A number of explanations have been advanced to link meat and cancer risk. In some cases, meat contains carcinogenic compounds formed during processing or cooking. In addition, high fat content of meat and dairy products boosts hormone production, which increases the risk of hormone-related cancer, such as breast and prostate cancer.

Carotenoids, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their colours, have been shown to help protect against lung cancer and may help prevent cancer of the bladder, mouth, larynx, esophagus and breast as well. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts contain flavonoids and indoles, thought to

have anti-cancer activities. The soya foods enjoyed by many vegans contain anticarcinogens, including lignans and phytoestrogens. Results from the UK cohort of the landmark European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study found prominent differences between British meat-eaters and vegans. Vegans had less than half the mean intake of saturated fatty acids of participants who ate meat as well as the highest intakes of fibre, vitamin C and vitamin E. Small wonder, then, that studies in England and Germany have shown that vegetarians are about 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters. Quitting smoking remains an important way to reduce cancer risks, but giving meat, eggs and dairy products the boot is just as vital. Consider this information food for thought.



Forked Issue 2 – Meat  

Re-thinking food.

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