Earlier this year, Aldi grocery stores in the United Kingdom discovered that beef products from two separate brands contained between 30 and 100 percent horsemeat.
The products were subsequently recalled, however, this incident – the latest among several such incidents in Europe – serves as a reminder that what is on the label may not be what you’re eating, especially in the case of processed foods.
Horsemeat was found in two of Aldi’s ‘Today’s Special’ frozen beef entrees: beef lasagne and spaghetti bolognese, plus frozen burgers, from the brands Tesco and Findus. Both of the brands ordered their meat from one supplier, Comigel.
Owen Paterson, the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, “we believe that the two particular cases of the frozen burgers from Tesco and the lasagne from Findus are linked to suppliers in Ireland and France respectively. We and the Food Standards Agency are working closely with the authorities in these countries, as well as with Europol, to get to the root of the problem.”
He continues, “the French authorities are saying they are viewing the issue as a case of fraud rather than food safety. Anyone who has these products in their freezer should return them to retailers as a precaution.”
Even though officials – and Aldi – are assuring consumers that the products were safe, horsemeat carries with it one particular health hazard: the potential for being contaminated with phenylbutazone, a veterinary drug sometimes used on horses. Phenylbutazone is banned from human consumption, as it can cause a serious blood disorder.
The Aldi product recall has begun testing of beef products by multiple brands, as well as testing for phenylbutazone. An Aldi spokesperson said, “this is completely unacceptable, and like other affected companies, we feel angry and let down by our supplier. If the label says beef, our customers expect it to be beef.”
Unfortunately, Aldi’s incident is not the first time horsemeat has been found in Europe’s food supply. Last February, Ikea withdrew approximately 1,670 pounds of meatballs from 14 different European countries due to possible contamination with horsemeat. No such incidents have been reported in the United States so far.
The Aldi and Ikea horsemeat incidents serve as reminders not to trust everything we read on a label. Avoiding processed foods goes a long way towards avoiding unknown ‘secret ingredients.’ However, if we know where our food comes from – buying from local farmers and farmer’s markets, for example – we can rest assured that we truly are eating only the ingredients we bargained for.
-The Alternative Daily