Socialist Worker

Food testing cuts let bosses feed us on filth

Issue No. 2340

The Tories have raced to reassure people that they should keep buying processed food after horsemeat was found in several beef products.

“There’s no reason to believe any frozen food currently on sale is unsafe or a danger to health,” said David Cameron last week.

Apparently he thinks people don’t have a right to know what meat they’re eating.

Yet governments have ignored repeated warnings that horsemeat has been contaminated with chemicals that could harm humans.

And they have slashed the regulators that are supposed to keep our food safe.

The number of food safety laboratories in the UK has dropped from 40 to 18 over the past 30 years.

Liz Moran, president of the Association of Public Analysts, says the number of analysts is down “from more than 100 in 1956 to just over 30”.

She added, “Only products in which there is a known problem are tested. This makes it very unlikely that hidden contaminants will be found.”

The Tories have slashed environmental health and trading standards.

Trading standards officers oversee food labelling. The Unison union says job cuts of 15 percent have led to more than a quarter fewer scheduled inspections.

Horsemeat has been found in cheap products, such as a £1.00 Tesco Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese.

The Tories and their rich mates wouldn’t dream of eating the kind of meals at the centre of the scandal. That’s why they refuse to do much about it.

Instead they dismiss regulation of the food industry as “red tape”.

The horsemeat was only discovered because of tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority in Ireland.

It regularly tests for horse DNA—but the Food Standards Agency in Britain does not.

A new report in the Lancet journal this week said the food industry is putting public health at risk by marketing unhealthy food.

It disagrees that the industry can be left to regulate itself.

As professor Ron Moodie, one of the authors of the report, put it, “Self-regulation is like having burglars install your locks”.

Tory minister Owen Paterson has blamed the scandal on a “criminal conspiracy” based outside Britain. In reality the problems go far wider than a few criminal gangs.

There have been repeated food scandals in Britain. The BSE crisis in the 1980s and the outbreak of E-coli in Scotland in 1996 are just two examples.

Making money is more important to food producers than safety. And they are lying, on an industrial scale about what is in their products.

As long as the industry is driven by profit it will continue to put poor people’s health at risk.

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What We Think
Tue 12 Feb 2013, 16:39 GMT
Issue No. 2340
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