How the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal Happened
The 2013 Horse Meat Scandal was a food safety scandal in Europe in which advertised beef foodstuffs contained undeclared horsemeat. In some cases, the foods were found to have 100% of undeclared meats like pork. The issue was unearthed on January 15, 2013 following reports that Irish and British supermarkets stocked beef burgers with horse DNA. While horsemeat is edible in many parts of the world, it is a taboo in Ireland and in the UK to feast on it. Investigations revealed that 23 out of 27 sampled beef burgers contained pig DNA yet eating pork is a taboo among Muslims and Jews.
Even though the scandal did not have direct safety implications, it revealed the possibility of harmful ingredients finding way into foodstuffs. In addition, it was hard to trace the origin of the undeclared meats because of the complexity of the food supply chain in Europe. The scandal later spread to 13 more EU countries, with member states agreeing to find a lasting solution. Among these was sampling of 4,000-horsemeat samples for phenylbutazone, a veterinary drug banned in food animals.
What caused the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal?
Several supermarkets including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl were found to stock horsemeat burgers, which were thought to be beef burgers. Following investigations and findings, Nestle and Findus recalled beef ready meals, after tests showed that they had horse DNA. Many experts viewed the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal as a food fraud and not a food safety issue.
Besides Ireland and Britain, cases of horsemeat in beef burgers were reported across Europe. For instance, seven supermarket chains withdrew frozen beef meals from Findus and Comigel with initial tests showing that the meals had undeclared meats. Detectives established Romanian slaughterhouses as the source of beef before it was sold to a Dutch food dealer, then to a Cypriot trader and finally to a French firm, a pointer to the complexity of the chain. For Nestle, it halted supply of meat products from German. Even with these widespread findings, Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak in Britain denied trading horse meat and launched investigations to unravel the truth about the food fraud.
How the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal changed tastes in Europe
Immediately after the discovery of the scandal, things changed in the meat industry, with consumers taming their craving for beef. Prior to the scandal, business was booming especially for mince products, burgers and sausages. However, consumers lost confidence in the wake of the news as they favored local butchers. The overall impact of the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal was the plummeting sales of frozen burgers and frozen ready meals.
The scandal also caused a change in consumer shopping habits. In some cases, the impact of the fraud affected buying of foodstuffs permanently. This came even as some of the affected supermarkets like Tesco assured consumers of their commitment to maintain the quality of their products.
Another effect of the scandal was loss of trust. In a survey by Ipsos Mori, the scam had its toll on Tesco and Ireland than any other chain in Europe. The scandal injured the image of the chains and it would take long to restore the trust.
How Europe reacted to the Scandal
The European Union was highly criticized for its sluggish reaction. EU reacted five weeks after the FSAI announced the presence of horse DNA in Irish frozen beef burgers. However, EU absolved itself saying it reacted with speed adding that it had to ascertain if the findings were an isolated case or affected the entire bloc. In Ireland, the 2013 horse meat sandal sparked public outcry, calling for an EU-wide meat inquiry.
EU agriculture ministers from seven member states further convened in Brussels on February 13 and agreed on a wide range of measures to address the crisis. Among these was proper labeling of beef products. The ministers also agreed to conduct a control and testing plan to establish the presence of undeclared horse meat in beef products. This was to take one month and every participating member state was to conduct at least five tests.
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