Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Horsemeat scandal is too serious for joking

As a vegetarian I must say I'm mightily impressed at how so many meat-eaters have taken horsemeat-gate so easily in their stride (no equine inference intended.)

Instead of getting on their high horse (equine reference unavoidable) it's been all shoulder-shrugging insouciance and "Sure, we eat cow anyway – so what's the big difference?" or "The French eat it and it doesn't appear to be doing them any harm."

I'm not sure diners would have been similarly relaxed had it been say, dog, which, let's face it, is also consumed seemingly without side-effects by other global gourmands.

But it's still a bit of a quantum leap in our enthusiasm to try new foodstuffs and new flavours – a fallout presumably from the fact that you can't switch on the telly these days without yet another cookery show/celebrity chef spewing a pan-fried novelty.

We've gone from a nation that used to call the waiter to account for a fly in our soup to a nation that doesn't get all that fazed about a racehorse (or several hundred thousand) in our food chain.

Horse – or to give the cut what appears to be its accepted culinary title, 100% horse DNA – is currently cropping up all over the chill cabinet.

But why buy processed?

Since the meat is obviously much cheaper than beef and tastes indistinguishable from bovine mince if you douse it in sufficient E-numbers, it could become this year's odds-on foodie favourite.

Not so long ago we were hearing about how someone had bought up global supplies of donkey cheese on the grounds that this could be the next big thing on the dinner party circuit. Never mind the cheese. Have you tried donkey lasagne, darling?

I'm just surprised someone hasn't already jumped on the bandwagon and churned out a quick '100 recipes for 100% Horse DNA'.

Surely Jamie could give us a tip for the horses? "Chuck a big scoop of some nice, fresh 100% horse DNA in a bowl, toss in some of your chopped onion – lovely! – whack in a big handful of parsley and a dollop of pomegranate seeds. Wicked! Now slap it on to the grill.

"Just look at those juices. Mmmmm, awesome!"

Nigella would presumably go for a posher cut. Possibly of polo pony. "I always insist on organic, grain-fed 100% horse DNA."

And Heston? Surely Heston is already working on Shetland pony ice-cream with chilli custard and a woodlice coulis?

The world has gone mad. Not mad in the angry sense which we should be. But mad, crazy, daft. And far, far too docile.

Have we forgotten the young victims of the last big food scandal, the BSE horror? Victims like young Jonathan Simms from Belfast who died after contracting vCJD.

The loss of that lovely young lad and so many others like him was more than enough you would have thought to prompt government to ensure that never, ever again would our food chain be contaminated with something that hadn't been properly tested, checked and regulated.

Yet once again here we are, facing up to the fact that we've been served up God knows what disguised as honest food. At risk, once again, is a major part of our food industry but most important of all, our health and that of our children.

Somebody's taking us for asses.

And you know what? The way we go on joking about it all, making light of the frightening implications, they may well have a point.

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