First Person - with Fiona Purnell

Fiona Purnell
Fiona Purnell
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IT’S been a month since the first cases of horse meat in processed foods were revealed, but every day the equine animals continue to dominate the headlines.

More and more horsey DNA is being discovered in processed meat products that have found their way onto the shelves of our stores.

We’ve all heard the jokes about ‘My Lidl Pony’, it being ‘neigh laughing matter’, ‘Traces of zebra found in Tesco barcodes’, ‘burger sales remaining stable’ and ‘checking veggie burgers for uniquorn’.

They were rife on social networking sites when DNA was first identified and the first products removed from shelves, and like the meaty scandal, they are still out there.

One that made me laugh just the other day - don’t get too excited, it’s not the best joke in the world - was ‘Apparently the horsemeat crisis is over - don’t bet on it!’

But, behind the jokes there are serious matters that need to be addressed.

I’m one of those people who could never be a vegetarian, to me every meal must contain meat (breakfast can be an exception).

Any meat will do, it really doesn’t matter I’m happy to devour whatever succulent meat is put in front of me - beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, fish - as long as it’s cooked, that’s my only stipulation.

The phrase about being ‘so hungry I could eat a horse’ has more than one meaning these days it would seem, but I’d be perfectly happy to eat a true horse burger, even a horse lasagne - you know, like the one Findus had put on the shelf with 100 per cent horse DNA - although no need for it to be disguised, just label it and tell me it’s horse.

That seems to be the main issue most people have with the whole situation.

We’d see nothing wrong with eating horse - they eat it on the continent anyway - if we knew that was what we were eating.

The fact a product is ‘not what it says on the tin’ is what the real problem is.

If it said ‘horse burger’ or ‘horse lasagne’ people couldn’t complain and it would be their choice whether they ate it or not, but when it says beef and it turns out to be horse it’s what you might call false advertising and very misleading.

An interesting documentary on the BBC this week took a look at the whole horse meat scandal and the reasons behind it.

We’ve the Irish to thank for sparking off the investigations and analysis of products.

They were the ones who first started testing for horse DNA after suspecting criminal activity was at work.

The clear motive of criminals passing horse meat on to manufacturers and it ending up in our food chain is to make a quick bob or two, given that horse meat is cheaper to buy than cow.

But if it hadn’t been for the FSA in Ireland, how long would it have been before anyone noticed what was in these foods?

And how long have we been eating them for up until now?

As I said earlier, I’m not against eating horse, in fact I’m sure it’s actually quite tasty, but more needs to be done to ensure we are eating what we think we are in processed foods.

The ingredients need to be exactly what is on the label.

The government needs to come up with a solution for stricter monitoring of products, that’s not going to cost a fortune to carry out, like the current DNA testing.

What that solution is, I’m not sure.

But one needs to be found, and quickly.