HORSE MEAT SCANDAL
Feb 25, 2013
PRAGUE - Perhaps it was living for four decades under the hardships of Communism that explains the cynical yet humorous attitude Czechs have taken towards the latest twist in Europe’s growing horse meat scandal.
Health officials in the Czech Republic on Monday discovered horse DNA in frozen packages of Ikea’s signature dish: Swedish meatballs. The label says they are only supposed to contain beef and pork. Like everyone else in the world, Czechs now buy cheap yet stylish Scandinavian furniture with funny names. And as a meat-loving people, they gobble-down plates of meatballs on any visit to the furniture giant’s cafeteria.
Ikea has pulled the offending product from shelves in the Czech Republic and a dozen other EU countries. But news of the false labeling didn’t seem to bother customers at Prague’s Ikea stores.
"I am being cheated just about everywhere. So, I am used to it,” said Vladimir Kubec.
“I don't care much if there is horse meat in the meatballs. I am more sorry for the horses."
Then there was a bit of advice that could have come from a World War I Czech conscript into the Austrian Imperial army.
"I haven't had them,” said Petr Skuta standing in an Ikea parking lot, “but as people say, if you don't know what you are eating, you don't mind."
That may be the attitude from Eastern Europe, but tastes in Western Europe and North America are - shall we say - a little more modern.
It appears that either sloppy or unscrupulous suppliers started putting horse meat in frozen meals as a substitute for more expensive ingredients. One Romanian slaughterhouse is getting lots of the blame. There are concerns that dangerous drugs used to treat horses may have made it into the food chain.
For Ikea’s part, it said the issue was isolated to one supplier in Sweden. Ikea stores across Canada are supplied by US meat producers and are not affected. So Canadians can be confident they will continue to enjoy non-horse Swedish meatballs.
But with global brands like Ikea and Nestle now being sucked into the crisis, we have been forced to pay closer attention to Europe’s food-fight. If the world is now a ‘global village’ then we are eating from the ‘global table’.
I suspect more big companies will discover unlabelled horse meat in their products as more and more tests are done.
Not that there is anything wrong with horse meat. It’s very lean and healthy. I’ve enjoyed shopping at many excellent Chevaline butchers in Quebec for example. But you knew what you were getting.
Europe’s leaders are right to consider tough new labeling rules to restore shaken public confidence. Enforcement and inspections – especially in new EU countries – will be key.
If horse meat is finding its way into foods that it shouldn’t be in, what else is in there?
HORSE MEAT REPORT