swedish meat and philosophy in the news again

One might have thought that one big meat splash was enough. The following could have been a typical December 6 speech by any Swedish supermarket manager to their employees:

“Okay, guys, you’ve all seen the last news about Our Way of meat packaging. We don’t want to be caught red-handed like those bunglers in Stockholm. New rules: the meat department plays clean at all costs, the obligatory cut-corner policy is instead transferred to cheese, grains and vegetables, evaluation after a trial period of a month, there’s a good staff.”

Not so. During the whole of December, stores all over this country kept making the news for their old minced beef and other niceties. Today the newspapers report from the west coast:

Just before New Year, someone at ICA Kvantum in Varberg had thawed a pile of frozen lamb from New Zealand, with a (frozen) best before date of May 2008. For most obvious reasons, previously frozen meat needs to be marked as such, and labelled with a new best-before date two days after thawing (the country of origin must also be mentioned on the label). These particular packages, however, were re-labelled as Swedish lamb; the best-before date became January 30, 2008, an entire month after thawing. Before an observant customer notified the authorities, five kilograms of the meat had been sold. The central quality control department of the ICA chain had a minor meltdown: “some words passed through the telephone that are not repeatable in print,” quotes Svenska Dagbladet (16 Jan. 2008, p.10) ICA quality manager Mats Ovegård. The store manager in Varberg says that it all was a mistake by a single employee. Poor kid, (s)he’s probably moving to Cape Fear with a new identity while I’m writing.

One wonders whether all this is the result of some collective seizure of chutzpah within the community of food merchants in this otherwise so neat and tidy part of the world. But is the ongoing meat saga, as professor emeritus in economical psychology at the Stockholm Handelshögskolan Lennart Sjöberg suggests, really based on a general tendency to take risks, because “one simply thinks that one will not be caught”?

Nope. Risk-taking is stupid. These guys are philosophers. Borås Tidning (16 Jan. 2008, p. 4) provides the key: besides of accusing his “single employee” for the “mistake”, Magnus Andersson, the Varberg manager, had this to say: “Embarrassing and deplorable, especially in these times where this is such a hot topic.”

I love it: “Especially”. This quotation represents the very best of cutting-edge quantum philosophy: stuff isn’t really there if we don’t look (apart from that it is always there if we believe it is there). Embarrassing stuff really is only there if we look really closely.

I maintain that taking reading glasses to the store solves most of the problem, on all philosophical levels.


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