Food Fraud – They’re Making Monkeys Out of Us

Some1 say they don’t mind if it’s horse meat they are eating. In a sense I don’t disagree. One animal killed for its meat is very much like another BUT there is something much more important happening with the latest food scandal. Criminals are making monkeys out of consumers.

If you still shrug your shoulders and maintain it doesn’t matter then you are very, very stupid. Too stupid for your own good.

If food producers are substituting beef or whatever other meats with horse flesh it is because it is cheaper. If it is cheaper they stand to make more money from duping shoppers.

If you paid someone to paint your living room blue and they painted it green you would complain. What criminals add to food is much, much more important. What you eat determines your long-term health. You may not care about that now but you will – when it happens.

So what if the government tells us there is no danger from eating these foods. That’s the standard response to any looming emergency or scandal – it’s not harmful – get out a statement to calm the masses. Don’t believe a word they say.

Feel like sitting down and having a cuppa? Check that tea for grass cuttings or fern leaves or sawdust. Someone somewhere has been adding these to ‘stretch’ tea leaves i.e. make more money from their ‘product’. Grass is not harmful? Depends what’s been sprayed onto it. You don’t know and neither do I.

Same with horse flesh. Horse meat is only as good as the horse it has been sliced off. Horses are not generally consumed here so there are less stringent measures over the treatment and medicines given to horses from cattle, sheep and pigs which are raised for consumption.

What do you think happens to any matter injected into or fed to an animal. Does it disappear when the animal is slaughtered? Of course not. It is there in the flesh and if you eat it, well you eat it – whatever it is.

In the case of horses this could be Bute. Bute or phenylbutazone is a synthetic anti-inflammatory used on horses. It is believed if a horse has received Bute at any stage in its life it should never be used for human consumption. Warnings over the use of Bute are well-known in the US with warnings over horse owners being tempted to use the substance on themselves as it is said to be toxic to humans likely to cause bone marrow loss and anaemia and most worryingly is a carcinogen.

For as long as food has been sold there have been unscrupulous traders happy to add nasty things to it. They don’t care because they won’t be eating/drinking it. Obviously. But you don’t know what’s been added. Some of you don’t even care. Criminals making a packet out of a packet of cheap substitute meat lasagne love you. You are their next Mercedes, the extra holiday home somewhere lovely and sunny. They are just so grateful that so many consumers are happy to play along with them – I don’t care.

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Let’s put a little perspective on this.  In the US early in the 20thC there were fears about the adulteration of food by dishonest producers, especially over chemicals and preservatives being added to them which no-one knew were safe or harmful for humans: lead and mercury salt added to cheeses, untested colour agents. American meat producers wanted to give the illusion their meats were fresh by the liberal application of borax or boracic acid.

The more remote we have become from the food which enters our mouths the greater the opportunities there are for bad practices to slip in somewhere along the complex network of interests – the much loathed  ‘robber barons’ of the 19thC – slavering at the prospect of separating people from their cash for the least cost to themselves. What we have today isn’t new. The following appeared in the New York Evening Post early the last century.

Mary had a little lamb,
And when she saw it sicken,
She shipped it off to Packingtown,
And now it’s labeled chicken.

When it’s not what it says on the tin

Many Victorians enjoyed a cup of good strong tea. Unfortunately the colour wasn’t always down to the leaves but the dye Prussian blue added to give it that extra depth. And with that dye they were likely to swallow a quantity of plumbago leaves (probably not harmful but not what was being paid for). However stomaching sand or china clay might take a little more effort.

Jolly Victorian food manufacturers loved to add a soupçon of copper here, a touch of arsenic there perhaps a pinch of lead in – well anything really – tea, very dangerous substance, chocolate, sweets, beer, rum, pickles, cider, bread, cheese, cream.

All those things were deliberate and we haven’t touched on what drops off people: lice, fleas, hair, bits of nails, snot. They’re human – it happens. Things fall onto the floor and get picked up. Obviously – it’s all profit.

Food adulteration is a world-wide problem and according to the US authorities it is not just rampant but increasing. There’s nothing that can’t be tampered with.

Milk has had hydrogen peroxide, urea and detergent added to it. Oh and formaldehyde, machine oil, detergent, caustic soda. Yes, really.

Olive oil is frequently the object of criminal scams, diluted with lower quality oil or not even olive oil, sometimes hazelnut, sunflower, soybean, corn oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, pomace. Pomace I don’t even know what that is.

Get what you pay for? Not in the case of much of the oil apparently. What about that healthy of healthy extra virgin olive oil? You might just be getting virgin oil but it could be mixed with other vegetable oils if it isn’t just peanut oil that is, or rapeseed.  Rapeseed is not so bad, not what you’re paying for but how about palm oil? Now that is why you’re paying for healthy olive oil to avoid those clogged up arteries.

Seafood now that’s impossible to fake, yes? No.

Manufactured seafood products are open to substitution usually with something more plentiful and cheaper, naturally. Cod supper? Well saithe is not so different when deep fried in batter. And cheaper. Not for you understand. Canned tuna could be mackerel. At least it’s still fish. Just not what it says on the tin. Caviar or catfish roe. Halibut or sea bass?

Lemon juice is a favourite for substituting with something not lemon apparently. And the cloudy look it has? Some low life came up with adding phthalates – doesn’t sound nice? It isn’t it’s a chemical used to make plastics set such as in Formica.

I think I might need a glass of wine after all that but wait can I be sure it is what it says on the label. Is my quality bottle just cheap plonk with a label switch? That would be the least of my worries – what is the impact on the human body of a stomachful of diethylen glycol or methanol.

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Fancy adding some spice to your life? Perhaps that cinnamon is just not very cinamonny? Could be because it is coffee husks darlings. Coffee husks are very adaptable as they can also take the form of nutmeg. Coriander powder – sorry just run out but I do have a supply of dung powder. You read that right. Chillies must be okay they’re cheap to grow after all. They are but not quite as cheap as sand or what else could you possibly do with the powder residue of bricks? Waste not want not.

I used to have a soap dish made of soap stone but if only I’d know I could have grated it into my curry as asafoetida. Paprika anyone? Now you are asking for trouble. My least fav adulterant is lead oxide. Just doesn’t do it for me. Let’s just stick to good old black pepper. On second thoughts let’s not. And that oregano on your pizza? Well your guess is as good as mine, or perhaps it isn’t. Clue sumac.

As the nursery rhyme told us chicken could be, possibly chicken. Then again it’s just as likely to be beef or pork gristle or ground up bones of , well anything really. And meat is meat is depends what you mean – beef? Beef is beef is beef is pork is offal is dyed pork because let’s face it even an idiot could recognise the difference between pork and beef unless…forgot to mention horse.

Off meat? A piece of plain bread. None of that stuff they used to sell made from chalk, alum and bone ashes. I’ll bake a cake myself. Now where’s that flour – wheat, rice, soy – who knows  – though I don’t fancy the melamine stuff at all. Kills doesn’t it?

I like the occasional tipple of 100% pomegranate juice but what am I getting? At least that’s what I thought I was getting. Now I’m not so sure it not just cheap fruit juices or sugared water.

I buy my honey local so I’m pretty certain it’s the real McCoy. At least honey is a natural food that’s good for us but just how efficacious is cane sugar or fructose corn syrup?

Is there no end to the ingenuity of people to swick us?

We all know that water is liberally added to a host of foods. Chicken, pork- anything you can think of can be watered down, that is watered up to weight. Water after all is as cheap as it comes and if you don’t mind paying for water in the food you buy well that’s your choice. Not quite so cheap now is it when you deduct the weight of water?

And if you’re vegetarian don’t get too smug. That tofu or the noodles you are cooking for your dinner could just be preserved with formaldehyde.

Enjoy monkeys.

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PS  – Pomace is used for animal feed and is the waste left after pressing oil.

‘In the UK, seven abattoirs are licensed to kill horses for human consumption. No link has been made between UK horse abattoirs and the current scandal. The FSA has, however, been chasing details of horses slaughtered for meat in the UK that turn out to have contained residues of the banned “bute” drug. Investigation have shown tha nine horses from UK abattoirs tested positive last year. Six were exported to France; in two cases the FSA is still trying to trace the carcasses, and in a further case the horse had not been exported, but had been purchased by two premises in the UK “for personal consumption”. (the Guardian Sat 9 Feb 2013) ..In one case the abattoir concerned was Red Lion. The following undercover film was made at Red Lion Abattoir (High Peak Meat Exports – Cheshire) by The Hillside Animal Welfare Group.

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