No room for complacency on food we eat

THE horsemeat scandal has generated many headlines over the past few weeks and, despite the jokes that have been doing the rounds on social media, there is no doubt it is a very serious matter.

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The scandal has shone a bright light on the food supply chain and really shaken public confidence in the food that we eat.

As consumers, we have an absolute right to know exactly what is in the food that we buy and it is clear that work needs to be done to rebuild confidence that this is the case and that the labels on processed foodstuffs are accurate and reliable.

The Food Standards Agency – and, indeed, the Scottish Government – have therefore been absolutely right to treat the matter with the utmost seriousness.

Testing and inspections are ongoing, not just in Scotland, but across the UK. And as Public Health Minister Michael Matheson reported on Friday, the vast majority of the more than 3500 tests carried out in the last two weeks across a range of manufact-urers, retailers, caterers and whole-salers, have proved negative for horse DNA.

Only 35 test results have shown levels of horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold level.

THAT is, of course, 35 too many but the public should be reassured that more than 99% of tests have shown negative results.

It is also reassuring that none of the positive samples so far has shown any sign of the veterinary drug known as bute.

All of this should help to raise our confidence that the food we eat is safe. However, there is no room for complacency.

Last Thursday, we had the first positive test in the public sector in Scotland, when a beef burger supplied to a North Lanarkshire school tested positive for horse DNA.

That is completely unacceptable and will be of concern to parents all over Scotland, even although experts say that there is no risk to public health.

However, serious though all of this is, it does provide us with an opportunity to look again at how food is sourced and supplied.

That's why I am so pleased that the Scottish Government has announced a school meals summit.

The purpose of this summit is to look at the steps that can be taken to ensure that as much high quality, locally sourced food as possible is served in schools.

We all know that there is a great deal of pressure on budgets these days but there is still no substitute for quality when it comes to the food we serve our children.

A focus on more local produce – not just in schools – might be one good thing that comes from this scandal.

And it will not only be good for Scotland's home-grown food producers and retailers, but it will be good for the long-term health of the country too.

That is why it is so essential that the right lessons are learned from this unfortunate episode.

Food and drink

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