With the continuing news on the use of horse meat and the additional news of pork in non pork meals in our prepared and processed foods it is becoming apparent that the processing and the movement of the meat is an unsustainable journey that extends across Europe. This offers the opportunity to put cheaper and potentially lower quality ingredient into these foods by hiding it at any of the multiple points of handling.
As a Chef I find the details depressing and a result of the current legislation and rules governing meat and its processing. It is obvious that the proper safeguards are not in place and do not ensure that the customer gets what they have paid for.
Driving down prices purely to maximise the profit is not sustainable. The responsibility for care of the ingredients being used and the end product being made to right quality and made from the right ingredients is lost in these long links of producers, manufactures and retailers.
The coverage in the media reveals more and more practises that I find reprehensible. If a ready made meal says made with Beef it should have Beef in it! As a customer I feel the retailers have not fulfilled their responsibility of ensuring that the products they source are made from the ingredients on the label. What are the retailers doing to ensure that they live up to this responsibility? Not much it would appear, profit seems to be the only driving force all the way down the supply chain.
This issue highlights the difficulty for consumers. How do you know for sure what is in the packaging is genuine? You don’t is the simple answer. We should all be asking the retailers with questions about the products they are selling. We should be asking for confirmation that they can prove that the meat ingredient is what is should be in every line of ready prepared meal.
I suggest they put on their websites details of all producers/manufacturers along with the mechanisms they use to ensure the provenance of the products they source. This way we can at least start to see a link in the chain between field, abbattoir, butcher, manufacturer, retailer to the consumer.
In the multi-million $, £ and Euro business that is food production and food manufacturing the consumer has a right to know what they are buying and eating, they are also responsible for what they buy and eat. Therefore the consumer has a duty to themselves and others to push the food industry to be open and transparent in what they produce, manufacture and sell.
In the end this may well be a labelling issue but it highlights the fragility of the system and the lack of safeguards mean that we cannot trust the products we buy as much as we thought we could. I have to have a system that shows how my work processes reduce the risk of contaminating the food I source to produce my products. Alongside this I have record how I process the ingredients, show my process of cooking and storing the food. I also have to record the state of my kitchen equipment and its operation. I do not mind doing this because it demonstrates the fact that I take care in what I do with the ingredients and the environment in the kitchen. I went through my recent inspection in the last week and this makes me feel good from the point of view that I can show to my clients that I have been inspected and found to be working at the highest level.
There will always be a minority of people trying to profit from breaking the law. The consumers have to start using their purchasing power to influence the mindset of the larger supermarket retailers to be clear about the food they source and how it is prepared. Lets not wait for government to take action – consumers lead the way! Challenge your retailers and if you do not like the answer you get change retailer, use your power – the cash you spend on food!