EU Commission: Once in every 20 beef meals you eat…horse probably with drugs in it

Tonio Borg, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy and Paola Testori Coggi Director General, in the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission, in a happy exchange at the Health Policy Forum. (EC Audiovisual Services, 09/04/2013).

Tonio Borg, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy and Paola Testori Coggi Director General, in the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission, in a happy exchange at the Health Policy Forum. (EC Audiovisual Services, 09/04/2013).

This week the European Commission, and in order to be fair and precise, the European Commissioner Tonio Borg, tried once more to convince 500.7 million European consumers that the horsemeat and the Phenylbutazone scandal didn’t reveal any loopholes, in the EU food quality control systems. In a European Commission Press release issued at the beginning of this week, Borg insisted once more that according to the “test results on horse DNA and Phenylbutazone (showed) no food safety issues but tougher penalties to apply in the future to fraudulent labelling”.

Playing with our health

At this point the European Sting has to remind to Borg that within 24 hours from 14 to 15 February he changed altogether his assessment of the horsemeat scandal gravity. Sting writer Suzan A. Kane wrote on 16 February: {It was only the day before yesterday that the 27 EU ministers of Agriculture heard Tonio saying, “regarding the unlabeled presence of horsemeat found in certain processed food products, including burgers and beef lasagne…it is important to underline that the evidence to date in relation to this episode does not suggest a health crisis. Horsemeat, according to EU legislation, can be used for the production of minced meat and meat preparations”…As it turned out this horsemeat is suspected of containing phenylbutazone. This is a veterinary medicine the use of which in food-producing animals is illegal. In less than 24 hours Tonio was obliged by facts to retreat in his words and yesterday asked the 27 member states to test samples also for this dangerous for human health substance}.

This time the Commissioner responsible or probably irresponsible for Health and Consumer Policy tries once more to convince us that nothing happened, by using some statistical methods he obviously cannot understand. He maintains that there was no danger at all from the phenylbutazone found in our food. According to the Press release “the probability of a consumer being both susceptible to developing aplastic anaemia and being exposed to phenylbutazone was estimated to range approximately from 2 in a trillion to 1 in 100 million”.

As all first year students of Statistics know well that when it comes to probabilities it’s very easy to arrive to millions. The more complex a possible outcome is, the more probabilities are being multiplied to calculate the overall probability, for this complex possible outcome to happen. For example if the probability of a person being susceptible of developing aplastic anaemia is 1/1 000 000 and the probability to eat a meatball with phenylbutazone is 1%, then the probability this person susceptible of developing aplastic anaemia to eat a contaminated meatball is 1/1,000,000 * 1/100=1/100,000,000. For one thing one meticulous researcher could question those two probabilities. Usually when politicians want to hide the truth from people by using statistics, they underestimate the bad probability and overestimate the good one.

The play with statistics is very dangerous and very easily steerable to the preferred direction. Bankers for example, by underestimating the statistical risks built-in the ‘products’ they sold to investors, drove the whole world to the present financial and real economy crisis. In the case of human health however it’s not ‘profit & loss’ but health and illness, if not life and death. On top of that even if one accepts Borg’s logic that the probability for somebody to become very ill is 1 to 100 000 000, in the case of the 500 000 000 European million citizens, it is certain that 5 people will suffer. No Mr Borg?
In any case the whole text of the Press release issue by Borg is an obvious attempt to minimise the dangers, from a food industry quality control system completely inadequate and prone to produce alerts. For years the British cows, were fed with animal proteins before getting crazy, and nobody stopped it. Or what about this present case? The horsemeat stuffed with phenylbutazone, which was sold as beef before being detected in Britain, had galloped for weeks freely all over the European Union.

More probabilities

There is a lot more however in this Commission Press release. According to the text published, “the coordinated EU-wide testing for horsemeat DNA and phenylbutazone requested, and co-financed, by the European Commission in the wake of the horsemeat scandal has revealed that less than 5 % of the tested products had horse DNA and that about 0.5 % of the equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated with bute”. If we use the laws of statistics and basic arithmetic, the probability to eat a beef product containing horsemeat with bute is 5/100* 5/1000= 25/100000=1/4000.

Not very little, because it means that one, in every 4000 beef preparations in the EU, contains horsemeat with bute. When Borg was telling the truth? Was it at the time when he reassured us that we are safe, because our chance to be ill from this reason is 2 in a trillion or now that out chances to swallow bute is one in 4000? Is it possible for a healthy person to eat bute and not be affected in some way? And for God’s sake, if we run such a danger every time we open our refrigerator, then what good is there in paying with our taxes all those fancy services, which supposedly control the quality of our food? The consumer organisations could do much better with all that money.

Last but not least the Commission didn’t comment at all about the huge probability we might be fed with low quality horsemeat, when we pay for beef. This probability is an unbelievable 5%, meaning that once in every twenty times we eat a beef preparation, it contains horsemeat. There is obviously something rotten in the kingdom of our food quality control services.







the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

This is why AI has a gender problem

Mental health and suicide prevention-what can be done to increase access to mental health services in my region?

European Commission adopts new list of third countries with weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regimes

New rules make household appliances more sustainable

‘Disaster resilient’ farming reduces agriculture risks, yields economic gains, says new UN agriculture agency report

Draghi: Germany has to spend if Eurozone is to exit recession

How digital is your country? Europe needs Digital Single Market to boost its digital performance

Scientists can lead the fight against fake news

Syria: Urgent, concrete actions needed, to protect children too young to ‘make sense of this senseless war’

Guatemala Dos Erres massacre conviction welcomed by UN human rights office

New EU rules cut red tape for citizens living or working in another Member State as of tomorrow

The EU tells the bare truth to the UK that there is no such thing as easy divorces

Basel III rules relaxed: Banks got it all but become more prone to crisis

Mergers: Commission clears Telia’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, subject to conditions

Security Council calls for dialogue in Haiti

How UN cultural treasures helped set the stage for Game of Thrones

UN chief extends condolences to families of China landslide casualties

Ahead of street protests, UN rights chief urges Guatemalan Government to respect democratic freedoms

Monday’s Daily Brief: the future of food and digital tech, labour justice in focus, denuclearization, and Kosovo

Sacrifice of fallen ‘blue helmet’ to be honoured with UN’s highest peacekeeping award

Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders ready for talks with UN chief on improved relations

SMEs and micro firms sinking together with south Eurozone

Climate change is a security threat. We must act now

These social entrepreneurs are lighting up Africa

Can the Notre-Dame fire freeze the ‘Yellow Vests’ uprising?

On Kristallnacht anniversary, UN chief urges renewed fight against ‘crime’ of anti-Semitism

The Mobile World Congress in Shanghai will take place on 27-29 June 2018

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

Your next pair of sneakers could be made from coffee

6 things to know about press freedom around the world

How energy infrastructure is shaping geopolitics in East Asia

European Union supports survivors of sexual violence in conflict

Why youth unemployment is so difficult to counter

On the first day of 2019, over 395,000 babies to be born worldwide: UNICEF

In polarized America, a new divide looms

One migrant child reported dead or missing every day, UN calls for more protection

Despite falling attacks, ISIL terrorists remain ‘global threat’: UN report

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

Have central banks missed the exit train?

More women than ever before are running for political office in the US

Higher education becoming again a privilege of the wealthy?

Guterres says UN stands ready to support Brazil’s search and rescue effort in wake of tragic dam collapse

These countries have some of the highest voter turnout in the world

Bolivia crisis: UN chief sends envoy to support peace, amidst renewed clashes

These are the world’s best countries to retire in, as of 2019

Can the EU afford a trade war with China?

Long-term exposure to air pollution is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day

Europe’s top court hears Intel and sends € 1.06 bn antitrust fine to review

UN chemical weapons watchdog adds new powers to assign blame, following attacks

What the Fifth Industrial Revolution is and why it matters

EU Leaders’ meeting in Sofia: Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for the benefit of all

South Korea once recycled 2% of its food waste. Now it recycles 95%

G7: A serious setback hardly avoided in iconic Biarritz

“Cyber security is a shared responsibility: stop, think, connect”, a Sting Exclusive by EU Commissioner Gabriel

In 2020 Asia will have the world’s largest GDP. Here’s what that means

DiscoverEU: 15,000 travel passes up for grabs to explore the EU this summer

Does the West reserve the fate of Libya and Syria for others? How does this relate to the EU’s Neighborhood Policy?

The Sting’s Values

Companies ‘failing’ to address offline harm incited by online hate: UN expert

Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s