Trading standards officers are calling for action by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) following a survey which highlighted how far consumers were being duped by the growing practice of adding water to pork.
A survey of supermarkets by Shropshire County Council's trading standards service revealed that the average cost of pork loin steaks with added water was £7.30/kg compared with the average £6.92/kg for normal pork loin steaks. Most products only had declarations of added water in small print, it said.
According to the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), which is pressing the case, some products contained as little as 87% meat, while some companies were claiming the meat was "basted" when it had simply been injected with water.
The TSI wants the FSA to ensure that meat with added water is labelled more clearly, with "added water" in the same size lettering as the description of the meat. It suggests that meat with added water should not be sold alongside other raw meat and wants a ban on the word "basted" .
Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: "Consumers need to know exactly what they are being asked to pay for so that they can make their own informed choices."
Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said the BMPA supported moves for clear labelling but added that if succulence can be achieved by adding water, it is a matter of consumer choice as to whether they are willing to pay more for it.
The FSA is pressing for stronger European Union labelling rules. Meanwhile, it is drawing up a voluntary code of practice.
Holbeach food park goes hi-tech
A small food technology park with its own training facilities is being created at Holbeach in South Lincolnshire to attract companies providing services to local food manufacturers such as Geest and QV Foods.
The Holbeach Technology Park will comprise 372m2 of space on 1.6ha of land. The 19-121m2 units will have a central reception and broadband internet connections. Several companies have already expressed an interest.
The park surrounds the University of Lincoln's former Agricultural Training Centre on Park Road, Holbeach, next to the George Farmer Technology College, which has just been refurbished and opened to students in July. Known as Minerva House, this college has chemical and microbiological laboratories together with kitchens and teaching space.
The project is jointly run by Lincolnshire County Council and the university with support from the European Regional Development Fund and the East Midlands Development Agency.
Food technology parks are popular in areas where food manufacture has traditionally been a major employer (see p18).