I like microbiologist Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University.  I have read many of his books and shared a few stages with him over the years.  I think we will be together in London in June where I will be speaking about Cantaloupe and Listeria.   However, when I read that he said “he would have no qualms about eating horse products and said it is “bog standard” (whatever that means) red meat.”

He said the trade in horse meat should be legitimized to prevent criminals passing it off as more expensive beef. “If people want steak tartar, they should ask for horse and not beef,” said Pennington.  “There is no argument against ­using horse on dietary or micro-biological grounds. There may be a preference about taste, but it is perfectly nutritious and I would eat it.  It is a cultural thing. People in this country do not eat dogs or ­horses, but when you go abroad, ­different cultural rules apply.”

“There are no E. coli cases associated with horse meat, though there are around 1,000 cases linked to cattle in the UK each year.”

Perhaps horse meat and E. coli have not been linked – yet.  But, it is not without risk.

In 2003, 14 cases of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Newport infections were reported. This is the first documented foodborne outbreak of multidrug-resistant S. Newport in France.  All cases reported having eaten horse meat from a common wholesaler. The country of origin of the imported meat could not be identified.

An outbreak of 538 cases of trichinellosis occurred in France in December 1993. Seven cases developed neurotrichinosis and 23 had cardiologic complications. No deaths were recorded. Two patients had a positive muscle biopsy showing living Trichinella larvae. One of them was typed as Trichinella spiralis.  The risk of illness increased with the amount of horse meat eaten and when it was consumed raw. The cases, which were spread out in five foci, bought horse meat from five butchers who had received parts of a single horse carcass imported in November 1993 from Canada. The Trichinella International Screening Program, implemented since 1985 after two similar episodes involving a thousand cases, failed to detect the incriminated horse carcass. This new horse meat–related outbreak led to modifications of the internationally recommended screening methods whereby the weight of meat samples tested was increased.

Professor Pennington, I hope you do not eat raw horse meat, and I hope you do not get sick.  I will see you in June.