" The real drama behind the ongoing story which for the past two weeks has been leading the news across Europe has been almost wholly missed. From the moment when, 10 days ago, Findus told the Food Standards Agency that it had found horse meat in beef lasagne packaged in Luxembourg, from meat processed in France after being bought from an abattoir in Romania, Owen Paterson, our Environment Secretary, has played a blinder.
While everyone else floundered about, chasing every little new bit of the scandal as it came to light from one end of the EU to another, Mr Paterson was the one politician who immediately grasped the nature and scale of the problem. He saw what needed to be done and he marshalled all the key players, right up to the time when he instigated a top-level emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening, for himself and six European food ministers, to agree with the relevant EU Commissioner a Europe-wide plan of action that he was proposing to address the crisis.
What Mr Paterson recognised from the start, unlike any other politician in Britain, was that the root of the problem lay in what had followed when, a decade ago, the EU took over all “competence” to make food law from national governments. It promptly introduced a new set of rules across Europe, to replace the old dependence on regular inspection and testing of foodstuffs with a radical new system. The EU’s version of what is known as HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is based on a trail of paper, whereby any food product, as it passes along the chain from one firm to another, must be acccompanied by a piece of paper certifying its nature and contents. "