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Horse Meat Exposes Distance Between Producer And Consumer

When meat comes from far away, it can be hard to know its history -- or its contents.

chicken nuggets

Photo: spacebarpark (Flickr)

In addition to chicken nuggets, Greek authorities found significant concentrations of horse meat in hamburgers, soutsouki and sausages.

According to a statement made by the Hellenic Food Safety Authority on Monday, samples of Greek chicken nuggets have tested positive for horse meat.

Hard To Trace

Europe’s horse meat woes began in January when equine DNA was detected in Irish beef products. Since then, horse meat has been found in products ranging from Swedish meatballs to British frozen lasagna.

Owing to the complexities of the supply chain, assigning blame for the contamination has proven difficult.

While Irish-based supermarkets have pointed fingers to suppliers based in Poland and the Czezch Republic, those suppliers, in turn, have blamed a bad economy and rising food prices.

Because meat is less likely to contain mystery ingredients when it’s sourced just down the road, many local butchers have enjoyed a marked uptick in sales in places affected by the scandal.

A Global Problem

The problem of meat misidentification isn’t unique to Europe. As conservation group Oceana recently found, nearly one-third of fish consumed in America is also mislabeled, often with cheaper and less healthy alternatives being passed off as more expensive items.

The Oceana study noted that none of the offending sellers could be named because it’s unclear where in the supply chain the breakdown occurred.

Fortunately, Europeans’ unwitting horse consumption hasn’t resulted in any acute health problems in humans.

While concerns that the toxic anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone could enter the food chain through horse meat, tests for dangerous concentrations of the substance have so far come up negative.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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  • Horace2013

    Unless you make your food yourself you can never really be sure what’s in it. There is a free mobile app called “horse meat or not” that detects if horsemeat DNA is in the food you are eating… or does it? ;-) Made my kids laugh at dinner time – take a peek at http://www.horse-meat-or-not.com

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