The current horsemeat scandal in Europe has gone from news that traces of horsemeat were found in burgers in Ireland to a recall of 10 million burgers in the U.K. Since the recall, more "beef" products were discovered to contain horsemeat, some made with nearly 100 percent horsemeat. As a result, plants have been shut down and tensions among various European countries involved in the scandal are high.
The horsemeat scandal is an issue of food safety, not because people are getting sick but rather because people are expecting one product and getting another. It is an issue of food quality as well, and a powerful example that the global food chain is a complicated and messy affair.
While food safety is a topic that often makes headlines -- there are constant food recalls happening in the U.S. on a weekly basis -- seldom does a food safety issue become a global topic. In addition to horsemeat, here are five other recent food safety scandals that have rocked the world:
Horsemeat in Beef Products: Europe
The ongoing horsemeat scandal has disrupted the food chain in a major way throughout Europe. Horsemeat has been found in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/walmart-horsemeat_n_2688782.html?utm_hp_ref=business">various meat products</a> sold in Europe ranging from burgers to frozen lasagna. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/horsemeat-scandal-arrests_n_2688171.html?utm_hp_ref=business">Arrests have been made</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/horsemeat-fraud_n_2693707.html?utm_hp_ref=business">innocence has been claimed</a> and a lot of unrest and conversations about global food safety have resulted.
Tainted Milk: China
China has had a slew of issues with tainted milk for the past several years. The scandal came to light in 2008 when at least six children died after consuming <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/02/china-milk-scandal-police_n_154758.html">milk that contained melamine</a>, an industrial chemical that causes kidney stones in children. Transparency was a huge issue in this scandal, as it was discovered that authorities <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/07/china-tainted-milk-kept-s_n_414907.html">investigated a dairy for a year</a> before going public with the information about tainted products. In more recent years, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/27/china-tainted-milk_n_1170778.html">other problems with China's milk</a> have continued to arise.
Mad Cow: Great Britain
Mad cow disease was first discovered in the mid-1980s in the U.K. It wreaked havoc on the beef industry, and <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1371964/The-recipe-for-disaster-that-killed-80-and-left-a-5bn-bill.html">caused at least 80 deaths</a>. There have been a few incidents of mad cow disease in the U.S. as well, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/mad-cow-disease-beef-importing_n_1452191.html">one as recent as last year</a>. The effects of mad cow are still present -- anyone that spent at least three months in the UK between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996 is <a href="http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing#arc5">not able to donate blood</a>.
Pink Slime: U.S.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/pink-slime">"Pink slime"</a> as a descriptor sounds pretty gross. Which is perhaps part of the reason why the term caught on like wildfire, and eventually led to several beef processing plants shutting down, along with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/pink-slime-lawsuit-abc-news_n_1883528.html">libel cases against media organizations</a> to boot. It all started when chef <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/pink-slime-fast-food_n_1237206.html">Jamie Oliver brought the term to light</a> -- pink slime referred to a controversial beef additive made up of spare beef trimmings that have been treated with ammonium hydroxide to make them safe and at least semi-palatable. While the additive may have been safe enough for consumption (though not at all appetizing), fear-mongering coupled with distrust of the beef industry led to a massive outcry, and the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/pink-slime-defamation-lawsuit_n_1880213.html">closure of three plants</a>.
Sprouts with E. Coli: Europe
In 2011, over 30 people died and over 3,000 people were sickened from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/10/sprouts-caused-e-coli-outbreak-germany_n_874689.html">sprouts that contained E. coli</a>. This has been the world's deadliest E. coli outbreak. People in over a dozen countries were sickened before the sprouts were eventually linked to a German farm.
Cantaloupe with Listeria: U.S.
In 2011, the listeria outbreak in cantaloupe was noted as the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/listeria-symptoms-cantaloupe-recall_n_987125.html">deadliest outbreak of food-related illness</a> in more than 10 years in the United States. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/listeria-cantaloupe-outbreak-over_n_1137920.html">Thirty people died</a> and 146 were sickened. In 2012, there was another big cantaloupe recall from a different farm. The farm eventually <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/07/recalled-cantaloupe-burch-farms-quits_n_1864165.html">shut its doors</a>, noting "It’s just a matter of time when there will be another outbreak somewhere.”