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

Sexual education in a school at the Brazilian Amazon

Capital Markets Union: Making it easier for insurers to invest in the real economy

ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

It’s time to gang up: a personal conflict on discrepancies in the medical community

Why is Merkel’s Germany so liberal with the refugees? Did the last elections change that?

3 ways sustainable supply chains can build better business in a post-COVID world

Modernising EU justice systems: New package to speed up digitalisation of justice systems and boost training of justice professionals

Will the EU reconsider Frontex’s role in light of accusations about violations of migrants’ human rights?

The hottest new craze for German millennials? Gardening

South Sudan’s peace process ‘precarious, but progress in being made’, Security Council hears

Global Goals top General Assembly President’s priority list

Ferry capsizes near Mosul, UN chief offers solidarity, support ‘as needed’

EU Parliament: Follow the fraudulent money and confiscate it

Disaster Medicine in Medical Education: the investment you just can´t afford to ignore

I cycled over 6,000km across the United States to document climate change. Here’s what I learned

Why exporters need to mind the trade finance gap

The Fourth Industrial Revolution can close the digital divide. This is how

“Joining forces to #BeatPollution”, a Sting Exclusive by the Head of UNEP in Brussels

Let’s Learn

The European giant tourism sector in constant growth

Guterres holds ‘focused and frank’ informal discussions over future of Cyprus

New EU telecom rules: latest actions in time for transposition deadline

The need to resume preventive policies for chronic noncommunicable diseases

How to keep a healthy mind in times of social isolation

UN must provide redress for minorities placed in toxic Kosovo camps, says rights expert

How smarter machines can make us smarter humans

This surgeon runs a makeshift hospital for over 200,000 people

Health professionals: the frontline in the fight against the Covid-19

COVID-19 poses a dramatic threat to life in conflict zones

EU leaders slammed on anti-tax evasion inaction and expensive energy

Trump ostracized by his party and world elites but still remains in course; how can he do it?

Refugee crisis update: EU fails to relocate immigrants from Greece and Italy

Compensation for damages by the State for infringement of EU law: the European Commission refers Spain to the Court of Justice for its rules on the compensation for damages incurred by private parties

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

Sustainable investment continues to gain momentum

‘Mosques should be safe havens, not sites of terror’, says Guterres announcing UN plan to help safeguard religious sites

Schengen: MEPs ready for negotiations on temporary checks at national borders

Austerity ends in Eurozone, Germany is isolated

Without tackling ‘gross inequalities’ major issues will go unsolved, warns UN rights chief Bachelet

Climate change is a disruptor. Here’s how to harness it for innovation

Governments should step up their efforts to give people skills to seize opportunities in a digital world

Cameron postpones speech in Holland

Towards a zero tobacco public space in Cameroon

How green investment will help Latin America and the world fight climate change

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Why sustainable packaging is good for profits as well as the planet

UN human rights chief fears world has grown numb to Syrian carnage

Brexit: European Commission recommends the European Council (Article 50) to endorse the agreement reached on the revised Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland and revised Political Declaration

How the powerful science of behaviour change can make us healthier

Respect people’s peaceful assembly and fair trail rights, UN human rights wing urges Nicaragua

Diana in Vietnam

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Parliament approves seven-year EU budget 2021-2027

Why medical students decide to study abroad?

As COP25 goes into the night, Guterres calls for more climate ambition

Good Governance in developing modern quality infrastructure systems

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

‘Bicycle Kingdom’ makes a comeback, as China seeks solutions to tackle air pollution crisis

Maduro ‘brings the truth’ about Venezuela to UN Assembly; says he is ready to meet US President Trump

UN health emergency committee to re-convene on global threat posed by China coronavirus

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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