More horse to swallow yet: How officials made the meat scandal worse

The Environment Select Committee has warned consumers to expect more contamination to be found. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Expect more contamination - that's the blunt message from MPs who have investigated the food farce currently gripping Europe. They identify gaps in checks done by retailers - but also some confusion in the way our food officials work.

Here is my rundown on what they say went so badly wrong.

The retailers:

At first glance it looks like the retailers are doing a great job of checking our food: they have traceability documentation, raw material intake procedures, microbiological testing, testing of fat levels, temperature controls, control of foreign bodies, the cleaning down of machinery and equipment.

However, they were not testing for horse - even though it now seems such a clear risk.

The Government:

A break-up of responsibilities seems to have created confusion and lack of focus. The Government reorganised the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Nutrition policy and nutrition labelling in England was transferred to the Department of Health (DoH), while responsibility for policy on other non-safety-related food labelling and composition policy was moved to Defra.

The FSA was left with a "core remit" of food safety and the implementation of policy on food composition and labelling. The FSA lost both staff and funding to Defra and the DoH. All the above happened with no discussion or consultation.

It is this re-organisation that has led to the most hard hitting conclusion of today's report from MPs:

The FSA's diminished role has led to a lack of clarity about where responsibility lies, and this has weakened the UK's ability to identify and respond to food standards concerns.

Furthermore the current contamination crisis has caught the FSA and Government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively within structures designed primarily to respond to threats to human health.