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York-based Company Says Horsemeat Scandal Could Have Been Avoided


2:47pm 6th March 2013

As horsemeat continues to be found in processed food in the UK and across Europe, an expert in food authentication testing has confirmed that the scandal could have been avoided.

Roger Young, managing director of research and analysis company Longhand Isotopes of North Yorkshire, said: "Quite simply, no-one asked the right questions. They asked where products had come from and who had had a hand in its processing, but clearly no-one asked the obvious one - what they contained. I think people want to have confidence that they are eating what they thought they had purchased.

“This whole fiasco could have been avoided at the outset. We have the technology, and it’s been around for some time, to prove not only that beef is beef – or not - but that if it says British, then that is where it was born and raised – or not. This type of checking must, in future, be routinely incorporated into food traceability tests if consumers are going to regain their confidence.”

Longhand Isotopes has been providing the type of testing that Mr Young maintains must now become the norm for years. Isotopes, a word that has become more widely used over the last few weeks, basically enable a check to be carried out on the origin of different foods by comparing samples to an established database. It is already used effectively by the British pig industry bodies.

It certainly has to be a cost effective option. Undoubtedly there will be legal issues ahead for those affected, from stores which have had to withdraw products to members of the supply chain sold mislabelled goods. A simple test would have circumvented the significant cost of all this, while deterring suppliers from attempting similar antics in the future.

Mr Young concluded: “The Government, consumers, manufacturers and retailers now know that the potential for harm is still there. And with millions of burgers and mounting numbers of ready-meals still being removed from the shelves, the risks simply cannot be ignored. Testing is available and one can only hope the Government, supply chain and public authorities will take advantage of this and enforce stringent testing as routine.”

Longhand Isotopes is part of York-based Longhand Data Ltd and works in partnership with a sister company in Germany, to provide expert testing, analysis and interpretation of results. These processes help to identify mislabelled food by taking a sample of meat and testing it to see if it matches the products on the Longhand database. If it doesn’t, further investigations can then establish the correct origin.

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