More than just horse meat

I am really saddened by this latest crisis to hit the catering and hospitality industry. I feel for the many excellent catering operators who do not deal in processed meat or any other processed food. Quite unfairly, all are coming under the same cloud. And yet despite this, I think good will eventually come out of the horse meat scandal.

The main issue in all of this is not simply about the eating of horse meat. On mainland Europe it is not uncommon to see horse butcher shops, and some even consider the meat a delicacy. The main issue is about the unwitting eating of horse meat, that is, people not knowing what is in the food they are eating.

If you buy, serve or consume processed meat products you are going to have great difficulty tracing everything that is in those products.

If on the other hand, you buy only prime meats from carefully identified suppliers, as we do, you will have full knowledge of what you are cooking and serving to your customers. We were recently invited onto Channel 4 news to make that very point.

If horse meat DNA has been found in a particular product, the consumer has every right to feel duped. They were told the food was one thing when in fact it was another.

If supermarkets and suppliers are only driven by the need to drive costs lower and lower in order to make bigger margins, other links in the manufacturing chain will be under great pressure to take shortcuts just so that they too can make a profit.

Caterers who avoid this path by careful ethical sourcing and cooking everything from scratch avoid any risk of contaminated food – it just won’t happen.

As I said at the beginning, I’m truly devastated by recent events. But I’m also very hopeful that they will act as a wake-up call and force our industry to take a good, hard look at our use of processed food.

So much has happened in recent years to transform the food culture in our country. My own teams work so hard to show by example the high food standards that are possible – teaching young people about where food comes from and engendering a love of the growing, preparing, eating and enjoyment of good food.

There are other caterers out there who mirror our own ethical approach in schools. If this approach were the norm, there certainly would be no horse meat crisis right now.

Till next time,

Steve

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