food

Hamburger anyone? Getty Images

There is never a good time for a food chain scandal in which people across a continent are suddenly informed that what they thought was beef lasagne was actually horsemeat of unknown provenance.

But there is an added wrinkle of awkwardness to the EU’s horsemeat scandal, since it coincides with the launch of free-trade negotiations with the US in which food safety standards will be central.

The EU-US effort to forge a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement was announced with great fanfare on Wednesday afternoon in Brussels by José Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, and Karel De Gucht, the bloc’s trade commissioner. The press conference was the culmination of more than a year of diplomatic spadework between the two sides and decades of dreaming by free-traders, business groups and Atlanticists. 

There is the CIA, which orchestrates drone attacks in North Waziristan and plots to topple foreign governments, and then there is the CIAA, a shadowy organisation that seeks to influence cloned meat standards, nutrition labels and other European policies governing the continent’s food and drink industries.

In an attempt to end all confusion, the CIAA, one of Brussels’ more muscular industry trade groups, is changing its name on June 23. “It’s quite an important thing, a new name. It’s a new identity,” says Lisa McCooey, the group’s Brussels-based operative, er, communications director.

The confédération des industries agro-alimentaire del’UE was born 30 years ago, when French was the lingua franca of the European Union and the acronymous similarities with a large US government organisation based in Langley, Virginia must have gone unnoticed.