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Globalised supply chain to blame for horsemeat scandal?

Once again the global supply chain has been criticised of stretching itself too thin. In a globalised market, some say, failures and miscommunications ...

Freddie Pierce
|Feb 15|magazine4 min read

Once again the global supply chain has been criticised of stretching itself too thin.  In a globalised market, some say, failures and miscommunications are all too common from station to station.  Horsemeat is the word of the week, but the problem may run much deeper than equine errors.

"First is the focus on low cost, leaving very little 'meat on the bones' for any supplier. The supermarket competing on price looks for low-cost suppliers if it has to make money, which in turn look for even lower cost suppliers if they are to make money and so on. Each becomes highly,” said  ManMohin Sodhi

Elizabeth Dowler, professor of food and social policy at the University of Warwick, noted the root of the problem is that food has become a vast international industry whose main concern is the bottom line, saying: “Food is treated as a commodity. It is not seen as something that contributes to well-being.”

But Michael Walker, a science and food law consultant to British food-testing and analysis company LGC, said it will be hard for people to break their dependence on a complex food-supply chain, especially if they want year-round availability of a wide range of products.

Walker said the horse-meat scandal shows the system of testing and regulation is fallible, but not fundamentally broken.

Walker said the science of DNA testing that exposes adulterated meat is robust, but that regulators, many of whom are facing government budget cuts, needed to use more “intelligence-led sampling” to catch offenders.

“The ingenuity of fraudsters is almost infinite, but we must do our best to try and keep up,” he said.