Watching What We Eat?

Being a food writer necessitates a need to do quite a bit of research.  It is not all eating and drinking, but that does come into it a lot!

This means that I get lots of emails from various bodies, including FSA, the Food Standards Agency who are silent for days on end and then send about half a dozen emails within the space of an hour, on subjects ranging from warnings about recalled foodstuffs because someone has found a bit of plastic in a yoghurt, to consultation documents pertaining to the control of abattoirs. Some of them are relevant, but most get the delete treatment.   

There is also another organisation called the European Food Safety Authority which, as its name suggests, tackles the problem of food safety on an EU wide basis. As you would expect, the emails from this body arrive thick and fast, usually the former, but I have just received one which caused me a little concern.   

As you will know, the UK Government triggered Article 50 two years ago and the date for our leaving automatically set itself at 29th March, 2019, i.e. last Friday. As the prime minister’s parliamentary votes to pass her Brexit deal failed, she asked for the leaving date to be extended and it is now at the end of May – literally as it turns out  – as long as we have an agreement on the deal by 12th April. So far, so good. The problem is that, although the main withdrawal has been postponed, all of the EU sub-departments have been adjusting their rules and regulations based on the original date and so, since Friday, the UK is regarded by EFSA as no longer being a part of the organisation. This might not pose a problem if it wasn’t for an outbreak of something called Lumpy Skin Disease amongst cattle. It has now been eradicated in the main centre of infection, the Balkans, but vaccination is still in operation. See the link. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/190321   

Because the EU didn’t want another Mad Cow Disease or Foot and Mouth scandal, they told all the EU members to administer Lumpy Skin Disease medication, which they did. Sadly, no one in Parma, Italy where the EFSA is based realised that Lumpy Skin Disease had the abbreviation LSD and so farmers have been giving our bovine friends an hallucinogenic drug, which might not prevent the condition but would certainly take their minds off it – again literally. Because the 29th March has come and gone, the legislation cannot be lifted in the UK by Parliament as we still need the EU to do this, which they can’t either, as we are now not officially covered by new EU rules. It’s a doddle this Brexit malarky, isn’t it?

I rang a farmer friend of mine, Tim Leary at High Eldwick, just outside Baildon, who said that the medication had been effective, with no instance of Lumpy Skin Disease in the UK so far.  He then went on to suggest that I might benefit from a course myself. Please make that an ex-friend of mine! He did say that there was more good news in that he had noticed an increase in the sale of unpasteurised milk from the farm gate and he can’t churn it out quick enough.  Fortunately, he was on the other end of the phone and not within slapping distance.

I am not aware of there being any cases of ‘passive tripping’ by unsuspecting burger eaters but I think that it is something you should be warned about until the whole sorry mess is sorted out. Until then, I am at the butcher’s first thing this morning in order to stock up on T-bone steak and mince.   

Far out, man.   

Feature photograph by Mags Richards.

Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living.  He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds.  He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.

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