Bridget Phillipson MPThe scandal around horse meat entering the food chain has worried many people, but also raised broader questions about how our food is produced.

Meat labelled as beef has turned out to be horse meat. This is clear fraud and an attempt to deceive consumers. Action must be taken against the criminal gangs whose activities have damaged our food industry. Of course retailers must do all they can to reassure their customers, but the government has a role too and has so far tried to play down their responsibility.

Government ministers were slow to act and gave out confusing and unclear messages. There have also been claims that the government was warned about this scandal two years ago. In 2010 the coalition government weakened the role of the Food Standards Agency and cut its budget. This has left the government struggling to catch up and has affected our ability to maintain high food standards.

It’s welcome that independent butchers are seeing an increase in trade. We all want to see vibrant local high streets where small businesses can thrive. But everyone has the right to have confidence that the food they’re buying is properly labelled, legal and safe to eat. That should also apply if you’re buying processed meat or a ready meal. Household budgets are tight and no one can blame families for trying to find affordable food, especially as food prices have risen sharply in recent years. The government, together with retailers and producers, must act now to restore consumer confidence and the standing of our food industry.

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