Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let Them Eat Horsemeat

We now know that most processed foods are loaded with genetically-modified organisms. With their massive mobilization against any kind of labelling that would reveal their presence in packaged goods, mega-corporations are pulling the wool over our eyes in the food choices we make. Complicit in this are government agencies like Health Canada and the FDA who perpetuate myths about the safety of GMOs, even in a staggering void of independent scientific research on them. Is the salmon on your plate genetically-engineered? Not yet, but in all likelihood, it soon will be. The FDA is set to give the green light to monster fish engineered on Prince Edward Island and grown on in Panama (yes, Panama!), to be shipped back for consumption across North America. And no, you will not be able to tell whether the fish you purchase and eat is such a denatured monster or not, as authorities say it doesn’t need to be labelled as genetically engineered.

Across Europe, authorities that regulate our food are all in a frenzy over the widespread presence of horsemeat in processed food. Not only horsemeat, probably donkey too. Who knows what else festers in our food? My bet is that – if it is ever to be revealed to us – there is a ton of gross unmentionables right through the industrial food chain. Researchers at Stellenbosch University in South Africa have just announced in a study that they found that 99 of 139 samples of processed meats contained species not declared in the product label, among them donkey, goat, and water buffalo. While this mis-labelling is not inherently dangerous to our health, it is certainly deceitful. Eating donkey meat may not be harmful to humans, but it is harmful to donkeys. Just tell us what’s in our food, please! "Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations, but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts," one of the researchers, Louwrens Hoffman, is quoted as saying.

It is almost certain that such misleading or inadequate labelling is rife across North America and Europe, as lack of proper regulation allows all manner of deceptive practice to go unchecked. My hope is that authorities now make strenuous efforts to get to the bottom of  the abuse, punish the perpetrators, and bring in sweeping new laws that enforce full, transparent labelling of all food products. Instead, I fear that a lot of the dodgy undeclared meat will continue to be swept under the carpet and into burgers and sausages. Where does this stuff come from? How did it get into the food chain? We might not want to know, but we have a right to know.

The only real recourse we have in shopping is to buy our food close to home, from sources we can trust. Who can we trust? Our local farmer and food producer of whom we can ask questions, or our supermarkets that have no answers?