FSA claims meat sample tests ‘not representative’ of food industry

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Targeted meat tests showed DNA from other animals
Targeted meat tests showed DNA from other animals
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has claimed figures showing that more than a fifth of targeted meat sample tests in 2017 found DNA from unlabelled animals are “not representative of the food industry”.

The FSA made the statement after a BBC investigation revealed that, out of 665 results from England, Wales and Northern Ireland tested by local authorities, 145 were partly or wholly made up of unspecified meat.

A BBC Freedom of Information request made to the FSA revealed that, in total, 73 of the contaminated samples came from retailers – including three supermarkets. A further 50 came from restaurants, while 22 originated from manufacturing or food processing plants. The samples came from a total of 487 businesses.

However, the FSA has highlighted that local authorities gathered samples from businesses in a targeted approach and the results were then submitted to the FSA United Kingdom's Food Surveillance System.

‘Specific food business types’

“These figures are from local authorities that carry out sampling programmes designed to focus on specific food business types where meat substitution is more likely to occur,”​ said an FSA spokesman. 

“The number of unsatisfactory samples is a result of this targeted approach where businesses which don’t comply are sampled multiple times, and the figures are not representative of the wider food industry.

“Where problems are found, local authorities can consider appropriate action to protect customers and improve compliance, which may include a formal warning or taking enforcement action, such as prosecutions or cautions.”

Four different animals

According to the BBC, the results also showed that some samples contained DNA from as many as four different animals, while others contained no trace of the meat that appeared on the product’s label.

Meat labelled as lamb was most likely to contain traces of other animals’ DNA, followed by beef and goat. Cow DNA was the most commonly found contaminate, while the most commonly mislabelled product was mincemeat.

Other products tested included ready meals, such as spaghetti Bolognese and curries, pizzas and a portion of ostrich meat, which contained only beef.

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