On Horsemeat In The Food Supply

Below is the text of the letter that I wrote to my local MP, Glenda Jackson (Labour – Hampstead & Kilburn):

 

Dear Ms. Jackson,

 

Like many others, I have been reading with shock the news about the contamination of so many food products illegally labelled as beef, which in actual fact contained horsemeat (in some cases up to 100% of their content) which have been sold in British supermarkets.

 

I find it extremely concerning that this may have never come to the public attention were it not for the investigations of the Irish Food Standards Agency, and that our own FSA has thus far responded in a way that can only be described as passive and reactionary.

 

As a voter, I tend to lean Conservative – I believe in small government and limited regulation of industry wherever possible. However, I believe that a situation where the largest food retailers in our country can sell mislabeled produce for so long, and yet wash their hands of any responsibility and blame their (often overseas) suppliers, is appalling. A supermarket selling a food item under their own brand – be it Tesco, ASDA, Waitrose, ALDI, Sainsbury’s or any other – should take responsibility for their supply chain. This must include legal liability for any contaminations such as the recent horsemeat scandal. Furthermore, the FSA should have the ability, and power, and conviction, to levy serious fines for any systemic breaches such as this. As blame is clearly shared among multiple parties in this case, the British retailers affected should then be free in turn to sue their suppliers in order to recoup some of their regulatory, financial and legal costs.

My questions to you, as my local MP, are these:

1. What steps do you believe need to be taken, and will you actively promote in Parliament, in order to ensure that the UK Food Standards Agency has both the manpower to better police the nation’s food supply, and the regulatory “teeth” to effectively deter retailers and food manufacturers from taking shortcuts or turning a blind eye to malpractice such as horse meat contamination?

2. As the food supply chain reaches far beyond British shores, to Europe and beyond, how can we better ensure that food products imported by British manufacturers, processors or retailers, conform to British standards of quality and labelling?

I don’t consider this at all to be a partisan issue – clearly the mislabelling and misselling has been taking place under both Labour and Conservative administrations for some time. What matters now is a swift and effective response, adequate legal frameworks in place for affected consumers to seek redress with the guilty British retailers, and a way for those same retailers to take action against their negligent suppliers. Unless the financial pain is felt all the way up the supply chain, such practices will continue.

I thank you for your work on behalf of our constituency, and look forward to your response.

Many thanks –

best regards,

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