Hygiene and safety first

ONE of the major aims of the co-operative movement when it was established in Rochdale in 1844 was to end the scandal of adulterated food.

For centuries serfs and working people consumed beer because the water was so polluted and smothered bad meat with sauces to disguise the taste.

The growing scandal over the presence of horse meat in the food chain shows that the struggle for safe food remains as vital as ever.

Some people like horse. It is commonly available in France. Many would baulk at the idea for cultural reasons. Personally I am a vegetarian.

But all that’s a personal choice – horses for courses, so to speak. The bottom line is very simple though.

Consumers have the absolute right to choose their chow. If they want horse, fine, but it should not be smuggled into the food chain by cowboys seeking a fast buck.

The debate is all about hygiene and safety. As a member of the Commons Committee that scrutinises the work of the food ministry, I have looked very carefully at this scandal.

We are deeply concerned that the scale of contamination in the meat supply chain is breath-taking. There will probably be more revelations about criminal profiteering.

We are urging the government to ensure better tracing of processed foods across Europe.

We say that retailers must make sure that consumers have properly labelled food so we can make informed decisions about we buy.

This will take time and money. The job of ministers is to find the balance between affordable food prices and effective regulations that require transparency and quality. Consumers should not face a catch 22 where they either buy quality food which they can trust or buy food without knowing where it comes from. Safety and hygiene are the priorities.