SG and I were chatting a little about the big scandal happening over in Europe, where it appears food manufacturing plants in Ireland and the UK have been adding horsemeat to products which are supposed to contain beef or pork. Horse DNA has been showing up in testing on supposed beef and pork products both on the shelf and in restaurants across Europe. Burger King, Tesco, Aldi, Nestle’, Birds Eye and Sodexo, among other, have all been impacted by the fraud.
Some officials have raised health concerns about whether the horsemeat could contain phenylbutazone (Bute), a commonly used equine pain reliever that isn’t approved for human consumptions. Others suggest there is a risk to consumers from Equine Infectious Anemia, which in and of itself isn’t dangerous to humans, but according to officials might be indicative of other health issues with the animal and point to poor sanitation and handling at the factory, which could indicate the presence of other, worse contaminants. Personally, I think these impacts would be negligible at best, since it would impossible for Bute to be present in concentrated in a horse in large enough amounts to actually cause harm to a person. Now the sanitation issue could be plausible threat, since a factory that is slipping horsemeat into their beef and pork products could conceivably be cutting costs by skimping on their plant sanitation or faking test results as well. Still, no outbreaks have been reported (yet) of infectious diseases being transmitted by the affected products.
Aside from the visceral reaction of “OMIGOD WE DON’T EAT HORSES, THAT’S GROSS,” I think the bigger issue is how the prepackaged food industry either directly or indirectly manages to blur the lines of information about where our food comes from and what it is composed of. We’re not made to eat all these chemical additives and highly processed foods. We aren’t mean to have a bigt helping of gluten or corn filler in our staple products. We aren’t meant to eat bread that can be squished down to a nugget the size of an eraser and has been processed to the point that you need extra helpings of fiber just to get it to pass through your intestines.
When most of our food is produced by subsidiaries of giant corporations much becomes invisible to the consumer, unless the consumer is willing to spend a lot of time researching who owns who and who produces what. Boycotting anything on principle these days pretty much means you just can’t shop anymore. Anyhwere. A couple of months ago when some companies which I’d always assumed were just great little producers of organic foods showed up on a list of companies opposing a measure in California to identify GMO products on food labels. Turns out those companies were subsidiaries of larger corporations which had a vested interest in hiding the origins of many of their food products.
The horsemeat scandal is just the current frosting on the cupcake of how the giant business of producing all of our food in factories is for the most part pretty bad for our health and probably our planet, but so long as its good for the company bottom line, who gives a shit?
I personally would be horrified if I found out something I ate contained undisclosed horsemeat; but I’m realistic enough to know anything at all that I eat that was packaged in a big giant factory somewhere possibly – probably? – contains things that are even more objectionable than THAT. And I probably think it tastes AWESOME too, because big companies are very good at taking advantage of the sense of taste that when we were still wandering around the forest in loincloths led us to eat the foods that were good for us and avoid those that would kill us.
In our house we are always talking about food and about eating healthier. SG’s doctor wants him to eat paleo; my personal food style is to try and eat more green things, more whole things and fewer processed things, but that sweet tooth of mine keeps tripping up on the Ho Ho’s. I’m not a Whole Foods hipster, by any means. I think it’s a shame that the foods that are pesticide and antibiotic free are also way more expensive and that most people can’t afford to buy them. But for fuck’s sake, if we’re going to manufacture a situation where a large portion of the population can’t access fresh food, could we at least make the stuff they can afford less toxic for them?
If nothing else, the situation in Europe is just that much more incentive to buy things locally as much as possible and to always always read labels. And if you go to London, DON’T GET A WHOPPER AT BURGER KING. Gross.