News – “Meat testing: A fifth of samples reveal unspecified animals’ DNA” – More than a fifth of meat sample tests in 2017 found DNA from animals not on the labelling, the BBC has learned.

Out of 665 results from England, Wales and Northern Ireland collected by the Food Standards Agency, 145 were partly or wholly made up of unspecified meat.

The FSA said the levels were consistent with “deliberate inclusion” – but added testing had targeted those businesses suspected of “compliance issues”.

The samples came from 487 businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets.

A BBC Freedom of Information request 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.

It also showed:

  • 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 contaminant, followed by pig, chicken, sheep and turkey
  • The most commonly mis-labelled product was mince meat, while sausages, kebabs and restaurant curries also featured prominently
  • Other products in the dataset include ready meals such as spaghetti Bolognese and curries, pizzas and a portion of ostrich meat, which contained only beef
Graphic showing meat contamination

An FSA spokesman said it was up to the relevant local authorities – which procured the samples before sending the results to the FSA – to lead individual investigations and take “appropriate action” such as prosecutions.

He added the results were “not representative of the wider food industry”.

However, a clear picture of the wider food industry is not readily available as less than half of local authorities actually submitted meat sampling data to the United Kingdom’s Food Surveillance System – part of the FSA – in 2017.

Some councils may have focused their food testing priorities “in areas other than meat substitution”, the FSA said – adding that others may have carried out tests later in the financial year.

Ummmmm you can’t just go around blending in these meats together all willy nilly and not letting us know what they are….and Dave Chappelle said it best in one of his latest stand ups… was simpler when we didn’t have access to all this information. #IgnorantIsBliss

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