The attitude to food crime

Saturday’s Guardian carried a story about the “food detectives” employed by the Food Standards Agency to fight the illegal meat trade. Given the paltry £200,000 of FSA money allotted annually for this campaign, it’s no surprise that criminal gangs are moving into the food trade.

Another reason, also pointed out in this article, is the far lighter prison sentences associated with illegal food trading. Why risk a longer sentence for drug trafficking, when you can deal in an equally lucrative but lower-risk business?

This is what I find unbelievable, and symptomatic of the general attitude towards food in this country.

Unless you’re an addict, recreational drugs are not a necessity. You only risk the effects of impure drugs if you choose to buy them. However (and I’m aware of the truism) food is a necessity for everyone. If we knew that we could avoid the risk of illegally treated or unhygienic meat, the problem could be marginalised. But we don’t… the stuff could be in respectable restaurants, high street supermarkets and any amount of processed food. Everyone risks illness or death from this stuff… yes, vegetarianism is an alternative, but only in the same way that homelessness is an alternative to having your house burgled (flippant, yes, but I’m trying to keep the ethics of meat-eating out of this).

Given the universal dangers of tainted meat, I see no reason why illegal food-trading crimes shouldn’t carry a life sentence.

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