Thursday, 17 January 2013

what a horse!


would you fancy a horse burger?

this story in UK and Ireland brings back nasty memories (BSE, meat supply chain etc) and it might escalate to pan-European food scandal (2013 starts in red alarming colours for all of us involved in research and teaching of HACCP, food supply chain, and evaluation of hazards...

In some of beef burgers...it was found that 29% of the meat content was from horses!!!

However, with little regulation in place, prosecutions are likely to be few and far between and fines derisory. Again

Enjoy your b-b-q...and please boycott these burgers until they are horse free!

The following article of mine is about 8 years old...still valid, alas...

 P.S. "Too little too late" Athens News, 15.4.2005
Too little too late

 Food Chemistry expert Ioannis Zabetakis points the finger at both FAGE and the state for legal breaches that endangered the public’s health

FOOD safety laws are clear. And it is clear that both yoghurt company FAGE and the Greek health watchdog EFET broke them. In order to ensure that the food the public consumes daily is safe, companies that produce, trade or sell food or food ingredients are legally bound [1] to implement a quality assurance system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which maximises food safety by minimising chemical, physical and microbiological hazards.

The European Union has mandated [2] the legal obligations both of the food industry and the inspection body that regulates the industry. This advisory body in Greece is called EFET (Eniaios Foreas Elegxou Trofimon) and its role is similar to that of the FSA (Food Standards Agency) in the UK.

The Greek state adopted the EU regulation as law on 1 January 2005. The two most important articles of this law for protecting consumer health are the 10th and the 19th. Article 10 directs EFET to inform the public of food safety threats. It reads: “The public authorities take the appropriate actions in order to inform the general public about the nature of the danger by giving as much information as possible related to the identification of the food or the animal feed that carries a potential hazard to the public health. They should also propose measures to eliminate or minimise these hazards.” Article 19 addresses the food industry, spelling out the obligations of quality assurance managers in food companies: “In the case that the product has reached the consumers, the responsible employee (of the food industry) communicates to the consumers with efficiency and accuracy the reasons of product recall and, if necessary, he recalls non-conformed products that have already been purchased.” FAGE discovered a problem in its production line on February 1, a source at the Greek Food Authority tells the Athens News, but the company never informed EFET and its first public press release is dated March 30. Once informed by unhappy consumers, EFET also failed to take up the matter with FAGE immediately, waiting another 12 days to do so and a further month to inspect FAGE’s premises.

If FAGE and EFET had communicated with the public with timely “efficiency and accuracy”, as the law demands, neither the dairy industry nor Greece would have been so badly discredited both nationally and internationally. On March 31, a day after the story broke in the Greek media, Greece’s first conference on food biotechnology had just gotten underway, and the then chairman of EFET, Nikos Katsaros, delivered opening remarks. By the evening of that day Dr Katsaros had resigned due EFET’s failure to inform the consumers of the yoghurt contamination.

Perhaps the most exemplary product withdrawal was that of the pain reliever Tylenol in 1982. After seven people died from Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide, manufacturer Johnson & Johnson withdrew tens of millions of bottles from store shelves. The company also suspended production and advertising for the pill. Instead of becoming a fiasco for the company, the incident was turned into a public relations success. By contrast, FAGE issued a defensive apology two months after discovering its production line problem.

Lost trust FAGE’s belated public apology may have been a case of too little too late to save the company from an uphill battle to regain consumer confidence. The company made two mistakes. First, when it did admit to the contamination, it neither gave adequate information about the cause of the problem nor did it follow up after the recall to identify the mould (ie which species of microorganisms were found). Secondly, FAGE’s announcement came long after the public food authorities in Germany and Great Britain were asking Brussels about the mouldy yoghurts. The dairy company’s tardiness not only damaged its own brand name, but also the Greek food industry’s reputation as a whole. To make matters worse, after resigning, Dr Katsaros rushed to publish the levels of the carcinogenic toxin, paradichlorobenzene, found in many brands of Greek honey, without mentioning the simple scientific fact that one would have to consume kilograms of tainted honey to suffer any adverse affects. FAGE may be able to afford to rebuild the commercial image of its products, but the independent honey producers may have a much harder time recovering from bad publicity. Greece can, indeed, be a European pioneer of top class wine, olive oil, fruits and fish. But the last thing that people involved in the food and food education sectors want is another case study of poor implementation of HACCP or crisis management with the flavour of yoghurt and honey.

 1 FEK 1219/2000 and EU regulation 178/2002 
2 EU regulation 178/2002


 

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