The horsemeat scandal illustrates just how much of our daily government now takes place in Brussels. Owen Paterson is heading there today, for any real action on this crisis will have to be taken at a European level. One of those involved in the government’s response to this crisis tells me the problem is that once products are inside the European single market they are very few checks on them. This figure called it, ‘a faith based system that isn’t working’.
This is particularly alarming because the horsemeat that is turning up in British food could not be from here or even Romania but the US via Mexico. In 2007, court judgments led to the last equine abattoirs in the US shutting down. But some American horses were still killed for food. They just went down Mexico way to die. Imports of horse meat from Mexico to the EU surged from 1.3 million kg in 2006 to 4.3 million kg in 2007, peaking at 7.4 million kg in 2010. In 2012, their value is estimated to have been around €20 million.
The fear — and Paterson has raised this with the food industry at both his summits with them — is that American horses, many of which have been drugged throughout their lives, are going to Mexico, being slaughtered and then exported to the EU. Once through customs and inside the single market, some of this meat is being passed off as beef.
If this is the source of the horse meat that is turning up in food here, then that is far more worrying than it being, say, Romanian donkey or British cart horse. For these American horses are far more likely to have been given large amounts of drugs.
James Forsyth explores the horsemeat scandal further in his politics column this week. You can read The Spectator in print and online from tomorrow. Click here to subscribe.