Contamination of Beef Products - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents


4  Conclusion

43. The findings to date are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Given the scale of the problem already revealed, it is unlikely that there will be a single source of the contaminant. In this report we have set out our preliminary findings, but we fully expect to take further evidence. There are many questions that need to be answered about how the particular incidences of contamination occurred and whether the controls currently in place are appropriate and sufficient. This scandal has also raised broader food policy questions about cheap food production, transparency, consumer confidence and pressures within the supply chain. There are also implications for food production in the UK—farmers are concerned that they comply with high welfare and quality standards but are undercut by cheap produce from overseas. While this is primarily a food labelling issue, the suggestion of fraud on a massive scale, suggests that measures must be put in place now to prevent any further contaminated meat entering the food chain. The Government will need to consider its role in achieving the correct balance between affordable food prices and regulations that ensure transparency and quality. We are concerned that the consumer will be caught in a Catch 22 between paying the costs of higher traceability, labelling and testing standards or having to accept that they will not be provided with comprehensive information about the provenance and composition of the food that they eat. The strong indications that people have intentionally substituted horsemeat for beef leads us to conclude that British consumers have been cynically and systematically duped in pursuit of profit by elements within the food industry.


 
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Prepared 14 February 2013