contaminated meat

Leicester City Council is considering taking action against meat vendors in the city after an extensive investigation revealed that nearly half of all meat in the area contained ingredients from an “undeclared species”.

In what promises to be a follow-up to the 2013 horse meat scandal, the council found widespread contraventions of food labelling law.

It launched a citywide meat product testing programme in May 2013 and found that 44 per cent of samples taken from over 105 businesses in the area, contained meat from species other than that declared, at levels regarded as gross contamination.

For example, samples of lamb curry were found to contain only beef or turkey, and samples of lamb mince from butcher’s shops were made with undeclared beef or chicken.

Twelve out of 20 samples of doner meat also failed due to misdescription by sellers. However no horsemeat or undeclared pork was found.

Councillor Sarah Russell, Assistant City Mayor for neighbourhood services, said: “While these test results reflect the findings of similar exercises in other parts of the UK, they will still be disappointing news for consumers.

“What we’ve found is a widespread confusion about the importance of accurate labelling by sellers and manufacturers. Fortunately, our officers have been able to advise businesses on relatively simple steps they can take to put this right and how to help ensure that the food they buy in is what it is described as.

“This action was always intended to support local businesses and offer them access to testing which would normally only be available to larger chains.”

Ms Russell added that the council will be sharing their findings with the Food Standards Agency and calling for more stringent measures to require all businesses – especially takeaway shops and restaurants – to label their products accurately.

“This is clearly a national issue, and we will be supporting the call on the government to implement the recommendations of the Elliot Review. It is essential that the food chain is governed in a way that prioritises consumer confidence.

“If left unchecked, a widespread disregard for the importance of clear and accurate food labelling is bound to impact on consumer confidence. It is also unfair to the many businesses that take these responsibilities very seriously,” she added.

According to the Food Standards Agency, where the DNA of an undeclared species is at or above one per cent, it is regarded as gross contamination. This can potentially be the result of deliberate adulteration and findings of this level must be investigated.

Ten of the samples which returned adverse results contained at least one type of undeclared meat at levels considered ‘diminutive’, or between one and five per cent.

Eighteen samples returned results showing that undeclared meat was a major ingredient, accounting for levels of between 60 and 100 per cent.

The council has since issued 15 warnings and made 10 referrals to local authorities where the meat product was manufactured outside of Leicester. Two businesses have stopped trading since the samples were taken.

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