Leader: Horsemeat scandal shows price valued over quality

THE news that horsemeat has been found in a batch of frozen mince supplied to schools in Edinburgh is perhaps not surprising given the scale of the problem that has emerged in the labelling of our food.

There is no suggestion that any of the food consumed at these six primary schools was harmful.

But what this episode should do is prompt us to consider what food we give to our children and how important that is.

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A recent Evening News investigation revealed that councils in the Lothians spend less than £1 per primary school pupil on school dinners. In Edinburgh, the figure is just 71p.

This desire to keep costs as low as possible drives some food companies – many of them based overseas – to make savings on the quality of ingredients. This is at the root of why horsemeat is being passed off as beef.

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Edinburgh City Council’s website claims that it uses local suppliers for meat, but do parents know where the supplier sources its ingredients from?

It is ironic that in Scotland we have some of the most envied produce on the planet – our meat and fish are exported at substantial profit across the world.

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So why do we feed our children – who require the very best nutrition for physical and mental development – the lowest common denominator food in our schools?

The truth is that those who make the decisions value price far above food quality.

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Improving quality would mean greater costs to councils and consequently to parents. But is this really such a crazy idea?

Surely sourcing food locally makes more sense for local businesses and farmers, as well as our children.

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Some parents might baulk at a hike in the cost of school dinners, but many of these same people will happily pay more than £2 for a coffee in Starbucks.

Our children, our future generation, should be getting the best of everything. And if that means we have to pay a bit more and some of us have to forego a few of the niceties of life, then surely this is a price worth paying.