This comes from the chairman of the Association of Cantonal Chemists and a spokesman for the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). He told the Swiss News Agency on Monday that the chief chemists of the cantons where the companies are headquartered should draw up a file on the matter and submit it to the courts. It would then be up to the judges to decide whether a case should be opened.
This is in marked contrast to the treatment of the retailers in the UK. Here, under the Food Safety Act 1990, it is a criminal offence to sell food which is not of the "nature, substance or quality demanded", and it is open to local authority trading standards departments to prosecute those companies which sold adulterated products.
So far, we have not heard anything of the intentions, but it seems possible that there is some reluctance to proceed with an expensive prosecution when the retailers can invoke the "due diligence
" defence. All they have to do is prove that they "took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence".
As with the Swiss, it would be interesting if the judges were involved over here, not least to test whether the "plausible deniability" which forms the basis of supermarket control regimes would stand up to scrutiny.
On the wider front though, we now have good evidence of five separate plant groups producing adulterated products on significant scale, potentially representing five discrete sources of horsemeat. This further reinforces the view that we are dealing with an epidemic of fraud.
And while there are siren voices
suggesting that none of this is very important, the scale of the criminal activity is easily equivalent to the Brussels airport diamond heist
. Food adulteration is every bit as much theft as stealing, and a lot less dangerous. Why, for instance, rob a bank when you can make more flogging dead horses?
COMMENT: "HORSEMEAT" THREAD