Beware Horseflesh in Beef’s Disguise!
14 March, 2013
Beware Horseflesh in Beef’s Disguise!
Horseflesh as a non-traditional food for Georgians very likely is sneaking into the menu under the mask of beef.
Discovery of horse meat in products tagged as beef and pork at European supermarkets within the past several weeks confused every consumer within and beyond Europe’s border; especially in the countries like Georgia that cannot boast by strong food safety measures and quality control as European standards suggest. Investigators have been removing the suspected products supplied by well-known producers to similarly
renowned supermarket networks in UK, France, Ireland, Germany and other countries. The scandal involved giant supermarket chains such as Tesco and Iceland in UK, Auchan, Monoprix and Carrefour in France that removed products provided by Swiss Findus and French Comigel. Austrian Landhof Ges tried to export 10 tons of sausages made of horse meat to Russia but customs control revealed the false.
National Food Agency of Georgia (NFA), an arm of agriculture ministry of Georgia, assures the European sort horse flesh scandal does not threaten Georgia as border control became stronger; especially after discovering the diseased potato import from Turkey in past February. However, risks remain at local market.
“The imported product is controlled by customs special phyto-sanitary service first and then it comes to our service where we check the product at special labs. Besides, sanitary inspection groups of the Agency are implementing raids at the market and no horse meat has been disclosed within several weeks neither imported nor locally provided,” Veriko Gulua, a spokesperson of NFA, told Georgian Journal. However she acknowledges that the problem of selling horse under “mask” of beef does really exist particularly in sale of street vendors where the meat is sold bypassing the slaughter places that provides the product with due identifying sanitary form largely called as “Number 2” and stating that the meat is healthy and a beef. The problem is no consumer can distinguish horse meat from beef by bare glancing at the piece of meat. Therefore Gulua as well as Madona Koidze, Head of Association Protecting Consumers’ Rights, advise consumers to buy meat at organized market places like supermarkets and general markets for they are more protected: they take product only from slaughterhouses and also have qualified veterinaries able to identify the product. As a matter of fact horse meat is not prohibited for food but medical inspection of horseflesh requires specially equipped slaughterhouses to insure that the product is safe. However as far as traditionally Georgians shun horse beef none of 46 slaughterhouses operating in Georgia do handle with this product. Therefore horseflesh that penetrates the market is either diseased and not edible or stolen. To sell the illegally produced product traders try to sneak horseflesh at marketplaces through schemes as following: out of 10 cattle carcasses one is a horse that an inexperienced eye cannot spot out. Several procurements of horse flesh provided locally and tagged as beef was revealed in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kaspi region in this past February out of which the most dangerous was 5 tons of diseased horseflesh detained in Kaspi. Around 10-20 kilos of horseflesh detained in Tbilisi and Batumi was not dangerous for health but was cheating consumers as the meat was meant to be sold as beef. Koidze believes, only the upcoming Code on Food Safety that intends to introduce stricter food standards, may solve the problem properly. Meantime, she advises consumers to ask for the certificate for the meat when they buy it.
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