Thursday, February 28, 2013

IKEA and The Jungle Revisited

No – not Ikea too with tainted beef; Maybe not An epidemic of horsemeat contamination is plaguing Europe, beginning in Ireland two months ago. The meat from European slaughterhouses is adulterated with horse meat. One England study found an average adulterated level between 1.5-10% of the samples taken. The contaminated “beef” has been shipped to hospitals, restaurants, schools, and supermarkets. Horsemeat is not unhealthy. Most carnivores do not discriminate between buffalo, cats, deer, dogs, gazelles, goats, impalas, mice, pigs, rats, sheep, voles, water buffalo or horses. Red meat is red meat. Horsemeat was sold as dog food in pet stores when I was young. The human palate though does not relish horsemeat. It is not on the menu in American restaurants. We do not savor eating Champion, Comanche, Dan Patch, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Traveler, Trigger, or Man o’ War. Indeed, the United States currently lacks a slaughterhouse for horses. But not Europe. Apparently quite a few European slaughterhouses have routinely slipped horse meat into their ground beef. South Africa also discovered goat, donkey, and water buffalo in its meat supply. It’s time to reread Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Major European companies, processing or selling adulterated beef, include Tesco, England’s largest supermarket, Asda (Walmart’s division in England), and Nestles, which only makes the very best. Burger King England may or may not have had horsemeat in their flame broiled, have it your way, burgers. They claimed they found it in a warehouse supply, but kept it out of the restaurants. On the other hand Taco bell found horse DNA in its ground beef. The contamination epidemic spread. It reached even the iconic IKEA, which gets 5% of its sales from food products. Lost among all its inexpensive, not too difficult to assemble, particleboard furniture, are the 160 million Swedish Meatballs it annually sells. Czech inspectors then claimed to find horse DNA in IKEA’s wiener sausages, proving the American adage that we do not need to know what goes into the making of sausage. IKEA recalled the sausage from 21 European countries, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. The past two months have illustrated the risks of our extended supply chains for food and other products. The adulteration, this time, has not posed a major health risk, but it is extremely costly for the companies involved. The United States experienced several problems with merchandise and toys imported from China. Lead paint was often the culprit. Some dairies in China contaminated their milk. Perrier had a major problem with its mineral waters two decades ago when it failed to filter the benzene out of the natural waters. Food safety has been a national priority for over a century with an amazing record, despite the occasional salmonella and E coli contaminations. The Swedish producer of the suspect IKEA sausage claims it has tested the sausage 320 times since the Czechs reported the trace contamination. It claims to have found no horse DNA in the sausage. It did not disclose what it found in the sausage.

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