House meat has been found in many supermarket products, even in schools and hospitals. Not what it said on the tin at all.
The body that independently tests food on our behalf, the Food Standards Agency, was dismembered when the coalition took over.
In 2010 the FSA had 2,000 employees and an annual budget of £135m but this was reduced as a result of the coalition government's spending cuts. By 2014/15 it will have to deliver a 33% drop in real-terms spending.
A shake-up by the new government led to the FSA handing over some of its responsibilities to government departments so it could focus solely on food safety policy and enforcement.
Food writer Joanna Blythman said the FSA did not have its own laboratory and could not cope with this scandal. She said the FSA compared very unfavourably to the Food Standards Authority Ireland (FSAI), which she said was "more pro-active" and unearthed the horsemeat contamination in the first place.
Earlier this week, after raids at meat businesses in West Yorkshire and Wales, the FSA's director of operations Andrew Rhodes said: "I ordered an audit of all horse producing abattoirs in the UK after this issue first arose last month and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be a blatant misleading of consumers."
Food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall told journalist Rachel Sylvester in an interview in Saturday’s Times that reducing the power and responsibilities of the FSA has put British shoppers at risk. “Self-regulation is a popular theme with this current government, whether you are talking about the press or the supermarkets.
“Clearly they have eased back on the supermarkets, they’ve cut them a bit of slack, and this is the result. They will be asking themselves whether they might have made some mistakes and whether they might want to put back some of those quangos. When it comes to feeding people we need traceability and transparency, and you can’t have those without regulation.”
Stripping the FSA of its powers has left its founding “farm to fork” principles in tatters. Nutrition now sits with the Department of Health in England and Wales, but not in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Labelling sits with Defra in England, but still with the FSA in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This hotch-potch situation is ridiculous in a country the size of the UK, where food business operate in all four countries.
Like Cameron they FSA blame criminals or supermarkets when this crisis is the result of their own failures. When will Cameron take responsibility for his own policies, instead of blaming everyone else.
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