Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/753/16191

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 February 2013

Food adulteration - government cutbacks and capitalist profits

Dave Ingham
Meat being prepared at Smithfield market, photo Paul Mattsson

Meat being prepared at Smithfield market, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

In the wake of the horsemeat scandal it's clear that food manufacturers, supermarkets and government ministers cannot be trusted to provide and ensure healthy food.

Ten companies dominate global food production and the drive for profit comes first. Big business politicians are generally obedient to the demands of the super-rich manufacturers.

Profits soar while health problems mount up and industry employees suffer attacks on working conditions.

Low pay denies millions from buying high-quality food. And unsustainable agribusiness production is wrecking the environment.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), horsemeat has been found in one in every 75 beef products available in the high street, as well as in cottage pies sent to 47 schools in Lancashire and ready meals sent to hospitals in Northern Ireland.

The FSA was established in 2000 as a watchdog on food safety and nutrition, in the wake of the BSE scandal a few years earlier.

Part of its remit is to monitor the three million cattle, 13 million pigs, 19 million sheep and lambs, 70 million fish and 800 million birds that are slaughtered every year in the UK for human consumption.

Food writer, Joanna Blythman accused the FSA of having an "unduly cosy relationship with the food companies, bio-tech companies and large retailers".

As if to demonstrate this the former CEO of the FSA, Tim Smith, is now Tesco's Global Technical Director.

Staff numbers at the FSA have dropped by 42% from 2007-2010 reducing meat inspection costs by 13.5 million, and since then a further 13% of staff have been axed. Its budget has been cut by 44 million since 2010.

On her blog Blythman comments further: "Now, providing a food-processing company has a paper trail that appears to demonstrate 'due diligence' and conforms to 'quality assurance' schemes, supermarkets take its products on trust.

"So unless a whistleblower tips off the authorities or obvious casualties line up in the form of poisoned consumers, any funny business in the factory goes undetected."

Moreover, council environmental health teams, which are responsible for inspections of food retailing, fast food and restaurants, have also been squeezed.

According to Environmental Health News spending has been cut by "32% since 2009, outstripping cuts in most other service areas."

Most workplaces can be expected to be inspected somewhere from every six months to every two years.

Having worked in a supermarket with fresh meat prior to these cutbacks, then I can honestly say the thoroughness of the inspections were less than exemplary.

In the one inspection I witnessed in my two years working full-time at a supermarket they obsessed over whether our chiller was actually as cool as it was supposed to be rather than the flagrant hygiene issues just metres away from them. My store manager was forever pulling me away from hygienic cleaning duties.

Profit margins

Some commentators have suggested that horsemeat is being used as a replacement for Desinewed Meat (DSM), which itself was a replacement for Mechanically Recovered Meat (MRM), also known as 'pink slime'. This is produced by removing residual meat from animal bones by high pressure water.

The difference between the two is that DSM is removed at lower pressure retaining some structure, but both are a far cheaper source of 'meat' than actual cuts.

DSM was reclassified as a form of MRM around a year ago which means it can no longer be listed as meat.

It's quite telling that a former FSA specialist, Dr Mark Woolfe, was quoted in the press saying that DSM "was a perfectly good ingredient for value products".

In essence he is saying that low-quality food is adequate for those on low incomes who have to buy value products.

He then goes on to justify companies using horsemeat as they searched for similarly priced 'meat' to protect their profit margins.

Flawed system

Horses are also slaughtered in Britain, some of which are for domestic human consumption, but mainly for export.

The UK government's system of passports for horses is meant to identify what drugs they have been treated with over their lifetime, including the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (Bute).

In high enough concentrations Bute can have severe side effects in humans. However, the passport system is deeply flawed.

7,000 of these passports were issued by the Spotted Horse and Pony Organisation after it had its license to do so withdrawn in 2008 by Defra, a government department. This is just one of over 75 organisations which can issue such licenses.

According to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals around 70,000 horses are untraceable in both the North and South of Ireland.

With the suspected involvement of criminal gangs, horses worth as little as 10 (due to drug treatment) are being sold to slaughterhouses with false passports and identification microchips for up to 400.

Although it is highly unlikely that sufficient levels of Bute are present in the horsemeat to seriously affect humans, a bigger potential danger is contamination by bacteria such as salmonella from 'back-street' abattoirs.

As long as capitalist companies, driven by the profit motive, produce our food then that profit will always come first, before quality and our health and safety.

A lax regulatory system and cutbacks in inspections, means that the horsemeat scandal and previous food scares clearly won't be the last.

Only a nationalised food industry, under democratic workers' control, alongside taking other key sections in the economy into public control would allow resources to be devoted to making sure our food is safe and correctly labelled.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 20 February 2013:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Toxic Tories - Time to fight their cuts and lies

Government on the back foot after workfare ruling

Stop social cleansing: Cap rents, not benefits

Food adulteration - government cutbacks and capitalist profits

Self-regulation: 'Like having the burglars install your locks'

Bosses take tax liberties

Action needed to end caste discrimination

Free trade agreement means NHS privatisation

Them & Us


Southampton feature

Fighting for a real alternative to cuts

Councillors' contempt exposed


International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Democratic Socialist Movement conference

Kazakhstan: Vadim Kuramshin faces 12-year jail sentence after appeal denied


Socialist Party workplace news

PCS branch supports 24-hour general strike call

Prison officers protest outside parliament

No pay cuts at Thera!

Tyne & Wear metro cleaners up the ante

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Mid Staffs hospital scandal: Cuts, PFI and big business to blame

Coventry: 'We need to fight now to save our services'

Getting organised can change things for low-paid workers

Caerphilly says 'bring back our A&E!'

Save our Services demo in Newcastle attracts 3,000

Carlisle: Demands to 'tax the rich' hit a nerve

London NHS

Socialist Students holds first North West conference

Nepal: The forgotten revolution

Socialist Party campaigning news


Socialist Party review

Review: "It's time to take over the banks"


 

Home   |   The Socialist 20 February 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Food:

triangleWe're freezing: reverse cuts to boiler replacement schemes!

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleObesity epidemic: end food market anarchy

triangleFood processing workers vote for action against miserly bosses

triangleMagic money tree

Government:

triangleLocal government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangleIrish capitalist state: rotten to the core

triangleNationalise rail now

triangleEnd Tory war on poor

Capitalist:

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party: "I started to question whether there was a better way"

triangle'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us

triangleSocialism 2017: ideas to change the world

Health:

triangleGlenfield victory shows people power can save our NHS

triangleVictory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

Agribusiness:

triangleWhat would a socialist food industry look like?

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

8/12/17

Government

Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

6/12/17

Labour

Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

6/12/17

NHS

Branson sues NHS: kick out the profiteers

6/12/17

Immigration

Royal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system

6/12/17

Banks

RBS to sack 1,000: nationalise the banks

6/12/17

Homelessness

Rough sleeping crisis: make homes, not arrests

6/12/17

Poverty

End Tory war on poor

6/12/17

Rail

Nationalise rail now

29/11/17

Them & Us

Them & us

29/11/17

Homes

Tory housing policy: build zilch, hike prices

29/11/17

Wages

Make the Tories history

29/11/17

Birmingham

Birmingham bin workers win!

29/11/17

British economy

Amber warning lights flash on British economy

23/11/17

Pay

After the budget - unions must launch pay fight

22/11/17

Climate change

Carbon dioxide hits 800,000-year high: end profit-driven pollution

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2