SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Wednesday) written to Dr Charles Milne (Director of the Scottish Food Standards Agency) asking why the Irish FSA identified horse and pig protein in products marketed as beef, yet the Scottish and UK authorities did not.
Whilst there is absolutely no risk to human health, as more details emerge of the extent of the dilution of burgers marketed as beef in certain supermarkets in Ireland, Scotland and the UK, the lack of traceability raises worrying questions.
Alyn, and the Scottish Government, have long campaigned in Brussels for maximum compulsory transparency in origin labelling of meat products. Compulsory origin labelling would have helped to avoid this issue, where the DNA was only identified at the point of sale, not the many stages of processing. The European Parliament will revisit meat labelling rules later this year.
"We need calm reflection on this, but Scotland's farmers will be rightly appalled to see yet another scare story brought about because of the increasing complexity of the food supply chain.
"I'm also concerned that this was identified by our friends in the Irish Food Standards Agency yet our domestic authorities appear to have been rather quieter. I have had many dealings with the Scottish FSA and it is a first rate organisation - I want to know if they need additional powers or budget to ensure that our checks in the future are as effective as the Irish checks evidently are.
"All of this, of course, comes down to the power of the multiple retailers in the market, and the lack of power of the farmers themselves and, indeed, the consumer. This was only spotted at the point of sale, and there are ample rules and regulations preventing products being diluted in this manner, so for a burger to contain 29% horse meat there has clearly been a pretty catastrophic error or malfeasance.
"This is a wake up call that the integrity of our food supply chain is not as good as it needs to be, and we have been lucky. I have long campaigned for tougher origin labelling rules and more effective policing of the food chain. This means more power - and indeed more budget - for the Scottish FSA to make sure that our producers and consumers are properly looked after."