Austerity and Food Safety

Meat Question Mark - Austerity and Food SafetyAs austerity continues to blight the lives of most ordinary people and the price of meat continues to soar, spare a thought for the farmers who are losing their livelihoods to rustlers…yes “Rustlers!”

The increase of livestock being stolen from the UK countryside, has increased recently costing the UK economy £44.5 million. This is extremely worrying, as the missing livestock is rarely found alive, which means, illegal slaughter practices (smokies), leading to meat finding it’s way into the food chain, with scant concern for food safety, and onto peoples plates.

Then, there are other serious implications, for example, the lack of bio security and the risk of another foot and mouth outbreak within our shores and if all of the above isn’t  bad enough, to add to these concerns, there is a new phenomenon which involves fungi and foraging.

Did you know it is not illegal to pick mushrooms…anywhere? The Theft Act 1968 Section 4(3) states that: A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose. For purposes of this subsection “mushroom” includes any fungus, and “plant” includes any shrub or tree.

That said, there are teams of people that are picking mushrooms on an industrial scale for commercial gain, and again, it’s all  due to the growing demands of businesses who are willing to pay up to £25 per pound and in Ireland €50 per kilo of fungi, depriving those that wish to forage for their own personal consumption, any fungi at all! And it’s totally out of control with one site like Epping Forest literally losing tons of fungi per year.

Furthermore, consider the dangers of eating mushrooms sourced in such a manner.  The Amanita phalloides (death cap) and the Amanita virosa (destroying angel) are two common fungi growing in the UK. Consume half of the cap of the death cap and you are unlikely to live to tell the story and there is no antidote for the destroying angel, the only way to survive is a liver transplant.

More to come in the next edition of my blog.  Thanks for reading.

Robert Elsey

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