The FSA’s review of local authority sampling data, from July to December 2013, found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb. Of the mislabelled samples, 25 were found to contain only beef. Other meat species identified included chicken and turkey but no horsemeat.
The results of the Which? survey, published today (April 17), revealed that of 60 lamb takeaways tested by the organisation, 24 contained meat other than lamb and seven contained no lamb at all.
To combat the fraud, the FSA said: “Local authorities are being asked to test 300 samples from takeaway restaurants and report the findings to the FSA. Sampling will start at the beginning of May. The mislabelling of food can result in fines of up to £5,000.”
Authenticity testing of takeaway lamb dishes will continue, as part of local authority sampling programmes, after the priority testing programme is completed.
Andrew Rhodes, FSA chief operating officer at the FSA, pledged food fraudsters would be prosecuted.
“Substitution of lamb for cheaper meats in takeaway food, as seen in our own data and the survey released today by Which?, is unacceptable,” said Rhodes. “We are working closely with local authorities to ensure robust action is taken against any businesses misleading their customers.”
While prosecutions for the mislabelling of lamb have taken place, the recurring nature of the problem showed the need for renewed effort to tackle this problem, he said.
“Clearly the message isn’t getting through to some businesses. The further priority testing we have announced today will focus the efforts of enforcement officers and raise awareness amongst food businesses of the action they face for defrauding consumers.”
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said more should be done to tackle food fraud. “More than a year on from the horsemeat scandal, our research has uncovered shocking evidence of food fraud,” said Lloyd.
‘Tougher action to crack down’
“The government, local authorities and the FSA need to make tackling food fraud a priority and take tougher action to crack down on the offenders. This is vital to restoring trust in the industry, which is not only good for consumers but good for businesses too.”
Which? bought 30 takeaways in Birmingham and 30 in London – including 15 lamb curries and 15 minced lamb kebabs in each location. All were tested for the presence of lamb, chicken, beef, pork, turkey, goat and horse DNA.
In Birmingham, 16 out of 30 samples were adulterated, with 11 containing a mix of lamb with beef and/or chicken. Five contained no lamb at all.
In London, eight out of 30 samples were adulterated: six contained a mix of lamb with beef and/or chicken. Two contained no lamb at all. Five of the London samples couldn’t be identified in the testing, probably due to over-cooking or repeated cooking which destroyed the DNA.
Which? judged a sample to be adulterated if it contained more than 5% of another meat. Several of the other samples contained beef and chicken in lower levels but this could be due to cross-contamination at the restaurant or by the producer rather than deliberate fraud, it said.
The watchdog claimed adulteration was not limited to Birmingham and London. “Trading standards and environmental health officers in Falkirk, Leicester, Warwickshire and West Yorkshire have found similar levels of fraud in lamb takeaways they have tested,” it said.
Launching a new campaign Stop Food Fraud, Which urged government, local authorities and the FSA to help restore consumer confidence. See the goals of the campaign below.
Which? Stop Food Fraud
- Local authorities to effectively and efficiently carry out food enforcement and make the best use of limited resources by sharing services and expertise across councils.
- The FSA to ensure there is joined up action at national and local level that prioritises consumers’ interests.
- The government to implement the recommendations from the Elliott Review into horsemeat and prioritise food controls, standards and their enforcement.