Quotulatiousness

February 18, 2013

Opening the food testing can of worms: “We don’t test for hedgehog either”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Health, India, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:20

Tim Worstall on some of the issues with demands that all British beef for human consumption be tested for horsemeat:

Now let’s turn to that meat problem. We’re going to test something to make sure that it is indeed what it says. Most of the time, usually, we’d go looking for beef DNA and on finding it say, yup, that’s beef.

But now we’re talking about trace amounts of other species. Some of this horse contamination is someone deliberately substituting, yes. But a lot of it, those trace amounts, is someone not cleaning the pipes between species being processed. Or the knives even. Which leads us to something of a problem.

How many species do we test for? Some minced beef… or pink slime perhaps. Do we test for beef and horse? For beef, horse, mutton, pork, chicken, duck, goose? What about rat and mouse? For I’ll guarantee you that however much people try there will often be the odd molecule of either one of those in there. Sparrow? That’s more of a problem with grain processing but still.

For example, one lovely story about vegetarianism. Those (umm, OK, some) who have moved from the sub-continent to the UK. They carry on eating the (possibly Hindu caste based) vegetarian diet they are used to. And they start falling prey to all sorts of dietary deficiencies. Anaemia, there have even been reports of kwashikor (a protein deficiency). The grains and the pulses of the sub-continent have rather more insect and other residue in them than our more modern processing and storage systems provide.

People don’t test for hedgehog DNA in meat supplies, no. But how many species should they test for?

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