The main problem out of the horsemeat scandal around Europe, according to specialists, (SOURCE) is not the threat to human health but more an issue of business ‘insecurity, as even major brands such as Nestle, Burger King and Findus fail to meet the high standards their consumers expect by selling different products than those specified in the labels and promotion of their brands (SOURCE).
Other problem is the lack of efficient traceability along the complex supply chain for meat, where unscrupulous vendors substitute beef for horsemeat taking advantage of the lowest price and the fact that so many intermediates involved in the process does not make it easy to find a single responsible. The fact of this horsemeat scandal bursting in more than twelve countries in the European Union makes it compulsory to look over more strict global regulations for meat products, regarding production, transit and labeling.
The problem is that food-safety regulations do exist but they are established by national governments and easily get lost in the imports/exports activities, as there is still no formal legislation regarding the whole EU (SOURCE). “For processed foods, there is no global overview on where the food comes from,” says Monique Goyens, general director of the European Consumer Organization (Matlack, pg. , 2013). Labeling
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), from the UK, is an organism in charge of monitoring food safety and hygiene covering all the food supply chain, from slaughterhouses to final caterers. Their responsibilities cover: animal welfare, food safety and hygiene, labeling, nutrition, and law enforcement across the UK. (SOURCE http://www. food. gov. uk/about-us/about-the-fsa/#. UTT5GaKQU8o). In this way, one of its main objectives is to ensure costumer? s and business? safety by offering information and guidance upon best practices and legal regulations.
Following information retrieved from FSA website, it is found that the European Parliament approved a new Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIR) in July 2011, which should apply to all member estates within the EU (SOURCE); this information has been published in the Official Journal of the EU although transitional arrangements are being made at the moment, which means that these regulations won? t legally apply until 2014. The objective of the FIR, as Chapter I, Article I from the Official Journal describes, is o establish the requirements governing food information for suppliers, focused on labeling, in all the stages of the food chain to ensure the right of consumers to information and safe food (Official Journal of the EU, 2011, pg. 24). In this way, very specific information about labeling legislation can be found in Chapter III, about General Food Information Requirements and Responsibilities of Food Business Operators, as article 7 on Fair Information Practices reads: “1.
Food information shall not be misleading, particularly: (a) as to the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, country of origin or place of provenance, method of manufacture or production; (b) by attributing to the food effects or properties which it does not possess; (c) by suggesting that the food possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar foods possess such characteristics, in particular by specifically emphasizing the presence or absence of certain ingredients and/or nutrients; d) by suggesting, by means of the appearance, the description or pictorial representations, the presence of a particular food or an ingredient, while in reality a component naturally present or an ingredient normally used in that food has been substituted with a different component or a different ingredient. “ (Official Journal of the EU, 2011, pg. 27) As for the case of prepared meals (including frozen), where meat is just an ingredient among others, article 18 specifies: “1. The list of ingredients shall be headed or preceded by a suitable heading which consists of or includes the word ‘ingredients’.
It shall include all the ingredients of the food, in descending order of weight, as recorded at the time of their use in the manufacture of the food. ” (Official Journal of the EU, 2011, pg. 30) It is also stated, in accordance to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 114) that the indication of origin is mandatory for beef and beef products in the Union? s effort to follow the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis, which has increased consumer? s expectations (Official Journal of the EU, 2011).
The EU Parliament believes it is compulsory to impose this declaration also to other well-consumed types of meat such as swine, sheep, goat and poultry. Still, they are many gaps left open as for horsemeat matters and the efficient application of the laws mentioned above during the transitional period for the establishment of the new FIR. When a food information law is introduced with new requirements, it is said that a transitional period should be granted for businesses and supplier to adapt to this new legislation.
In the case of the new FIR, which was accepted in July 2011, the grace period will last until 2014. In the meanwhile, suppliers not complying with the new legislation are authorized to take out their products and labels to the market and stay there until they? re exhausted, even if the grace period is over before that occurs. (Official Journal of the EU, 2011) Nevertheless, much of these requirements already existed and were applied for national governments before the horsemeat scandal, ignoring EU? legislation and passing over “law enforcements” even from specialized food safety agencies like the FSA in the UK. Traceability and business? responsibility Meat passes through a very large chain of suppliers, where the priority is to get meat for the lowest price possible. With the interest of getting more money and the vague, not enforced legislation, it seems easy to suppliers to sell less quality or different product s as what their consumer? s would like to buy.
Consequently, in cases like the horsemeat scandal that Europe is facing, a responsible for the offence is hard to find. Still, it is fair to say that much of the responsibility relies in every business involved in this fraud, for letting unscrupulous suppliers and products inside their market on to their customers. Even if there didn? t exist any laws applied to this, it is the business? social responsibility to ensure that whatever is in their shelves for sale is safety and trustable.
It is their duty, as responsible vendors, to do deep monitoring and recording requirements of the products and suppliers they work with every certain period, to ensure the quality and prestige of their brand and keep a track of where their products come from to ensure safety. Matlack, C. writes for the Bloomberg Businessweek Journal (February 2013) that frozen “beef” meals sold to Britain, Sweden and France supermarkets, were prepared in a Luxembourg factory who bought the meat from another French supplier, who got it from a Cyprot trader, who bought it from a Dutch trader, who obtained the meat from a Romanian slaughterhouse.
None of them suppliers admit to know it was horsemeat what they were selling. Four different countries interfered in trading vast quantities of meat across national borders; bad supervision at any stage made it all went wrong. Since 2004, the General Food Regulation should be followed by all businesses and consumers interested in safety regulations for their foods regarding imports and exports, traceability, labeling and withdrawal of products.
This regulation was approved by the FSA and the European Parliament and Council, is extended throughout Great Britain, and established the European Food Safety Authority (General Food Regulation, 2004). Within this document, the following is established: (a) Articles 11 and 12, on imports and exports: “Food imported or exported into or from the EU to be placed in the market shall comply with the requirements of food law recognized by the EU, unless the importing country requests to follow other law and regulations”. (b) Article 14 which prohibits the placing of unsafe food on the market; c) Article 16 in so far as it prohibits labeling, advertising or presentation of food from misleading consumers; (d) Article 18 on traceability in so far as it imposes obligations on food business operators; (e) Article 19 which imposes obligations* on food business operators to act where food is not in compliance with food safety requirements. *Keep records of food, food substances and food-producing animals supplied to their business, and also other businesses to which their products have been supplied (General Food Regulation, 2004, pg6).
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