The news that a slaughterhouse in Todmorden in the West Riding has been raided by Food Standards Agency over the horse meat scandal appears to indicate that one or more UK based suppliers might be involved.
If so, it behoves commentators like the British Gazette to move beyond simple rhetoric condemning the fact that this is but an example where this country has ceded sole competence to the European Union.
Let us address the issue that is in the shops: Namely the mislabelling of processed foodstuffs. Let us fact facts: a situation somewhat similar to this might very well have arisen were the UK not even in the EU.
The facts of the matter are these:
The UK’s market in processed food is dominated – as it is in other market segments – by the large supermarket chains. Readers will know that there have been many reports on how these large companies use their market share and buying power to drive very hard bargains with suppliers. Readers will know that low prices for foodstuffs is something British consumers attach much importance to. Yes, it is the case that many well to do middle class households who are in receipt of secure high incomes will pay great attention to having their food sourced locally and be keen to purchase organic produce and so forth. But the plain simple fact of the matter is that for many people struggling on low incomes, every few pence they can save on the family food bill is most important. These are the people who will look to the supermarkets own brand value labels. For these people, “farm friendly” organic produce is a luxury they cannot afford.
The supermarkets of course are fully aware of the plight of many of their customers and attach great importance to try and keep food prices down as low as possible – but in accordance with their overriding aim of maximising their profits. These seemingly divergent aims are of course achieved by driving the hardest possible bargains with their suppliers.
British Gazette readers will of course be fully aware of this. But are you aware that the price of one pound of horse flesh (licensed for human consumption) is one fifth the price of beef? Sorry Derek – the cost of one kilogramme of horse meant is 20% that of beef.
Given the relentless pressure from the supermarkets, the temptation to substitute horse flesh for beef is there to see.
Of course, if any British supplier is found to have knowingly committed this fraud they will be arrested, charged, tried and if convicted will undoubtedly be handed down a custodial sentence by the judge. That they will be well on their way to “chokey” will be signalled by the judge who will in a severe tone declare that they [the convicted person] have committed “a gross breach of trust” against their customers [the supermarkets] and the public. When you hear those words when you are in the dock, do not except to leave the court in anything other than a prison van. Those convicted will also face the daunting and crippling prospect of having much of their assets confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, commonly known amongst the offending community as “POCA”.
You might not have much or indeed any sympathy with such offenders but it is possible that these people were merely trying to extract a better return for their labours and capital invested which in any event could not have been described as huge. They will have persuaded themselves that “what the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve about.” You may at this point Dear Reader feel that we are being “too soft” on these miscreants, but please bear in mind that these people will have formed that judgement based on a generally appreciated fact within the UK’s food industry: the public’s ignorance of what goes on in abattoirs. The British Public in particular are very detached from the source of the food and the processes it goes through from farm gate to supermarket shelf. They do of course know that the animal whose flesh they have purchased was killed in an abattoir but they prefer not to think about that. Just in the same way that some experienced supermarket purchasing managers will have preferred not to think about how their suppliers were able to meet the cost demands they had made in their contracts of supply.
Maybe they adopted the maxim; “Ask the supplier no questions and they will tell you no lies.”
By not asking such questions they will have of course have saved themselves from experiencing the austere comforts of one of Her Majesty’s prisons – and of course the dubious pleasure of the company of such as Chris Huhne and his ilk!