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Nestlé Recall and Mafia Connections: 5 Things You Should Know As Horse Meat Scandal Grows

The lessons extend far beyond meat products, and far beyond Europe.

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Experts within the horse slaughter industry have told the Observer there is evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within abattoirs and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse. ...

"I'm concerned that this is an international criminal conspiracy here and we've really got to get to the bottom of it," [Britain’s environment secretary Owen Paterson] said.

5. Rethinking Our Food

So, we found out that beef products may contain horse, and also pig, and possibly donkey, as well. What to do with that information? For some people, it means buying less meat or from different sources. Reuters reported that 60 percent of people it surveyed in the UK said they were turning to local butchers for their meat and 25 percent said they would buy different cuts instead of processed meat. 

AdAge reported that sales of frozen burgers dropped 40 percent in the beginning of February, while the meat-substitute Quorn saw a spike in sales of 10 percent. Emma Hall writes that, “More than two-thirds of British adults said they would be less likely to buy frozen meat products in the future.”  

The biggest effect so far has been a drop in public trust. But after countless food safety scandals over the years, some of them deadly, why do we trust a system that’s needlessly complex?

“The food and retail industries have become highly concentrated and globalized in recent decades,” Lawrence writes for the Guardian:

“A handful of key players dominate the beef processing and supermarket sectors across Europe. They have developed very long supply chains, particularly for their economy lines, which enable them to buy the ingredients for processed foods from wherever they are cheapest at any point, depending on exchange rates and prices on the global commodity markets. Networks of brokers, cold stores operators and subcontracted meat cutting plants have emerged to supply rapidly fluctuating orders ‘just in time.’ Management consultants KPMG estimate there are around 450 points at which the integrity of the chain can break down."

That’s worth repeating — there are 450 places where something could go wrong before your food gets into your hands.

If there was ever a reason to eat more locally produced food and to know where your food comes from and who grows and processes it, this would be a damn good one because this extends far beyond just meat products, and far beyond Europe.

Tara Lohan is a freelance writer and former senior editor at AlterNet. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan or visit her website,

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