Neigh thanks! Food minister turns down Findus bolognese lunch because it would be ‘bad politics’ to eat it
David Heath did not want to ‘revisit’ John Selwyn Gummer’s infamous photoMr Gummer was photographed eating a burger during the mad cow crisis
Food Minister David Heath yesterday declined The Mail On Sunday’s offer of a tasty Findus spaghetti bolognese lunch, saying he wouldn’t be ‘revisiting’ John Selwyn Gummer’s infamous photo call with a beefburger.
Mr Heath insisted ready meals were safe following the withdrawal of Findus beef lasagne meals, which have been found to contain up to 100 per cent horsemeat. But he said it would be ‘bad politics’ to follow former Tory Agriculture Minister Mr Gummer’s attempt to win public trust at the height of the 1990 mad cow crisis.
Mr Gummer was photographed eating a burger and feeding some to his four-year-old daughter Cordelia.
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No appetite: Food Minister David Heath (left) turns down a Findus spaghetti bolognese lunch from MoS man Nick Constable (right) saying it would be ‘bad politics’ to eat it
We presented Mr Heath with a piping hot meal as he arrived for his morning surgery at Ridgway Hall, Langport, in his Somerset constituency.
In case he didn’t fancy Italian, we had a Findus cottage pie and Findus chilli con carni on stand-by to pop into the hall’s microwave.
The smiling Lib-Dem Minister inspected our lunch offer and replied: ‘How kind.’ But, betraying a certain lack of trust, he asked: ‘Is this the one that’s been withdrawn’
When we assured him it was spaghetti bolognese, purchased only two hours previously, Mr Heath replied: ‘Listen, my concern is that we went through this with John Selwyn Gummer and I think that was bad politics because it’s not a question of what I think – it’s what the public are happy with.
Mane meal: Findus beef lasagne has been withdrawn but Mr Heath would not eat another beef dish from the company
‘I don’t have a problem with the meal – the advice I get is that this food is safe. But put it all over the papers and it’s “Minister re-visiting John Selwyn Gummer”.
‘I’m not dodging it. I just think that was really, really bad politics at the time because people have got to take their own decisions.
‘We’ve got to give them the facts based on all the evidence that we have. Let’s get that evidence.’
He added: ‘What we’re doing at the moment is reading the riot act to manufacturers and processors and saying, “Look, you’ve got to test everything and give us an assurance.”
‘It’s the biggest test we’ve ever had on
beef products across the country. What we’re uncovering now more and
more are these instances in many other European countries and I think it
points very heavily to real, big-time criminals.
Infamous photo call: Mr Heath said he wouldn’t be ‘revisiting’ the John Selwyn Gummer saga who was photographed eating a burger and feeding some to his daughter Cordelia, 4, in an attempt to win public trust at the height of the 1990 BSE crisis
Pointing at our meals, he said: ‘It’s safe. That’s the advice from the Food Standard’s Agency. But whether everything is as it’s labelled is the big question. When we’ve got the results that tell us we can be 99.9 per cent certain everything is as labelled, we can tell people. At the moment we can’t. We want this information by the end of the week.’
After his 30-minute surgery, Mr Heath said he had no idea what he would be having for Sunday lunch at home. ‘I probably won’t be there because like everyone else in the department, l’m flying all over the place trying to deal with this.’
With that, he jumped into his Peugeot 207 and was gone.
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