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The "Extra-Value" Horse-Burger

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Published : January 30th, 2013
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FOLLOW : Iceland, Ireland, Market
Category : Opinions and Analysis

I don't know about you, but I will no longer buy plastic tubes (that you cannot see through) supposedly containing ground chuck.

I tried tubes of beef twice, but the product certainly looked different and was ground much finer than beef that comes in a normal package, in which you can actually see the color and texture.

I would roughly describe the appearance of the product I bought as "compressed red paste".

I bring this issue up because of a story from the UK about what has been found inside prepackaged "Everyday Value" frozen burgers.

Please consider Tesco’s U.K. Revival Hit as Horse DNA Found in Burgers.

Tesco Plc (TSCO)’s efforts to win back U.K. shoppers were dealt a blow after the discovery of horse DNA in some beef products caused the U.K.’s largest grocer to remove them from stores and prompted a barrage of negative publicity.

The burgers that were withdrawn from stores in the U.K. and Ireland were own-brand products, an area that Tesco has been focusing on as cash-strapped shoppers seek cheaper alternatives to big brands. Chief Executive Officer Philip Clarke last year rebooted the company’s cheapest own-label range, dubbing it Everyday Value, and promising a focus on quality. That’s part of his 1 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) investment program aimed at regaining customers as discounters such as Aldi and upscale chains like Waitrose erode its still-dominant market share.

The U.K.’s Food Standard Agency said it was investigating the contamination, including tracing the source of the horse and pig DNA and considering legal action. The agency will also start a U.K.-wide study of food authentiticity in processed meat products like burgers, according to the statement on its website.

Tesco withdrew two frozen beef burger products from stores following tests by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The Irish body said yesterday that about 37 percent of the beef burger products it examined tested positive for horse DNA, while 85 percent showed pig DNA. They listed Tesco as one of the retailers that sold the products, along with Aldi, Lidl, Iceland Foods and Dublin-based Dunnes Stores.

One Tesco product contained 29 percent horsemeat relative to the beef content, according to the Irish safety authority, which said the levels in most samples it tested were “very low.”

Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Irish agency, said the beef doesn’t pose any public health concerns. There is no clear explanation for the presence of the horse DNA, he said.
No Clear Explanation?!

The CEO says there is no clear explanation. Really? Please be serious. The most likely explanation is someone (either Tesco or a Tesco supplier) used a blend of horse meat and beef because they thought they could get away with it.

Even if it was an "accident" it certainly implies contamination, carelessness, and improper cleaning of grinders used for multiple purposes.

Those are the only two realistic possibilities. I leave it to the reader to decide which one is worse.

I do not imply the same thing is happening in the US. However, all things considered, I refuse to buy a product labeled as ground beef, that you cannot even see, and upon opening looks like red paste.

Addendum:

Reader "JB" writes ...
The term for this is meat adulteration. This can be serious for instance if beef is adulterated with pork. People tend to eat their beef rarer than their pork and adulteration could expose people to parasites that are not killed because the meat is not cooked enough to kill the parasites. I do not know about horse meat but generally think the risk is less than having a product adulterated with pork.

I never eat ground meat unless I am sure I know where it comes from. I do not ever eat any ground meat less cooked than medium because the grinding process will grind contaminates through out the product. This is different than a steak where contaminate will only be on the surface.

I rarely ever eat anything in a restaurant made with grown beef because it could include pink slime which is a process used to remove so called meat products off of by products that use to go to the rendering plant. The process exposes the meat to various chemicals like ammonia that are then removed else where in the processing.

PS -- You generally get what you pay for and the taste of the product usually reflects it. I have worked in the high end grocery store businesses and I can immediately taste the difference even when people have attempted to confuse me.
Addendum II: "JB" also wonders how much DNA testing the FDA does on meat products in the US. The reason is Phenylbutazone in Horse Meat.
Sixty-seven million pounds of horsemeat derived from American horses were sent abroad for human consumption last year. Horses are not raised as food animals in the United States and, mechanisms to ensure the removal of horses treated with banned substances from the food chain are inadequate at best. Phenylbutazone (PBZ) is the most commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in equine practice. Thoroughbred (TB) race horses like other horse breeds are slaughtered for human consumption.

Phenylbutazone is banned for use in any animal intended for human consumption because it causes serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse effects in humans. The number of horses that have received phenylbutazone prior to being sent to slaughter for human consumption is unknown but its presence in some is highly likely. We identified eighteen TB race horses that were given PBZ on race day and sent for intended slaughter by matching their registered name to their race track drug record over a five year period. Sixteen rescued TB race horses were given PBZ on race day. Thus, PBZ residues may be present in some horsemeat derived from American horses. The permissive allowance of such horsemeat used for human consumption poses a serious public health risk.
I do not know enough about that issue to comment on how serious a threat that is. I offer the article for purpose of discussion.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
Data and Statistics for these countries : Ireland | All
Gold and Silver Prices for these countries : Ireland | All
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Mish 13 abonnés
Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. He writes a global economics blog which has commentary 5-7 times a week. He also writes for the Daily Reckoning, Whiskey & Gunpowder, and has over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com
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