Pop icon Sir Paul McCartney has defended supermarkets in the intensifying row over horse meat contamination of beef burgers.
Speaking after the discovery of horse and pig DNA in beef burgers sold by Tesco, Iceland and other retailers, McCartney said supermarkets’ suppliers ‒ not retailers ‒ were to blame for the crisis.
“It won’t be the supermarkets who are responsible [for the horse meat contamination of beef burgers],” McCartney told BBC Radio 4’s the Food Programme yesterday (January 20). “They will have put in place every safeguard they can find.
“It will be a supplier ‒ someone who said: ‘Go on: whack in a bit of that [horse meat], mate. They’ll never know.’”
McCartney claimed the contamination of beef burgers with horse and pig meat DNA was easy to predict. “I’ve seen it coming because I’m already on the other side of the argument.
‘This is dangerous’
“This is dangerous. We know that people can be unscrupulous.”
The pop icon went on to recommend "the meat free option" and meat-free Mondays.
A range of vegetarian meals is marketed under the brand Linda McCartney ‒ McCartney's former wife, who died of cancer in 1998.
Meanwhile, the Food Safety Authority Ireland has asked its counterpart in the Netherlands to investigate the business practices of several companies in connection with the contamination scandal.
Irish food safety officials believe that the beef burgers contaminated with horse meat DNA originated in meat filler products supplied from the Netherlands.
In the UK Nick Allen, EBLEX sector director, had backed calls from the National Farmers Union for clearer labelling on meat products.
Improved labelling would help to safeguard long-term consumer confidence in beef and lamb products by aiding consumer choice and demonstrating greater transparency, said Allen.
Co-mingling of meats
“Co-mingling of meats from different countries of origin has been repeatedly raised by consumers as a concern in recent years,” he added.
“We would support calls for clear, simple labelling and welcome a debate on the issue. Origin is important to people. They want to know provenance and exactly what is in the product they are buying. While it is accepted that lower value meat products are unlikely to contain as high a proportion of beef than those at the quality end of the market, the contents still need to be clearly labelled on the packet.”
Last week, NFU president Peter Kendall warned:“The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry. Farmers are rightly angry that the integrity of stringent UK-farmed products is being compromised by using cheaper imported alternatives.”
Food industry expert Leatherhead Food Research has extended its meat speciation testing to include horse in light of the recent scandal.