The discovery of horse meat in some European beef products may signal that regulators haven’t been vigilant in checking meat supplies for other contaminants, including foot-and-mouth disease, said Richard Longthorp, the chairman of the U.K. National Pig Association.
Foot-and-mouth disease, last seen in the U.K. in 2007, is potentially fatal for young animals, and affects livestock including pigs, cattle and goats. Globally, the disease costs an estimated $5 billion annually due to lost production and vaccination efforts, and can also cause reduced milk yields and lower fertility, according to the group. Foot-and-mouth disease doesn’t affect humans.
“My biggest concern is if people are managing to bring illegal horse meat here, they could bring in meat with diseases, such as foot-and-mouth,” Longthorp, who’s also a pig farmer from Howden, England, said today in an interview in London. “The same lack of control that let horse meat into the country could lead to instances of foot-and-mouth, and that would cripple the pig industry.”
Supermarkets in the U.K., France, Ireland and Germany have removed frozen burgers and some processed beef products from the shelves amid the discovery of horse meat. The European Commission has said the supplies could be traced to processors in Romania, while the country’s agriculture minister said there’s no indication that the meat was mislabeled there.
“We always knew the food chain was quite long, but we never knew just how long it really was in some places,” Longthorp said. “Hopefully coming out of this horse meat scare, Europe will re-evaluate the cost of cheap food.”