Lab testing for horsemeat proved successful

UK research laboratories are extremely proficient in detecting horsemeat in meat samples, according to a study by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).

FERA said that between 97-100% of food testing laboratories taking part in its recent Food Analysis Performance Assessment Scheme (FAPAS) were able to detect the presence of horsemeat in samples taken.

Food analytical services were provided by 41 UK and EU-based laboratories to the meat and food processing industry during the FAPAS horsemeat proficiency tasting programme.

Five beef samples, which were known to contain or not contain horsemeat, were shipped to the laboratories and the high percentage of detection confirms a positive level of analytical competence amongst the laboratories participating.

FERA’s scientific advisor to FAPAS, Mark Sykes, said: “Proficiency testing is so important because it is an extremely effective way to ‘test the testers’. In the case of horsemeat, the 41 labs whose test data we analysed demonstrated a level of competence in detecting the presence of the meat. That sends out a very positive message to the food industry.

“It means that if you are using the services of a food testing laboratory to check food samples for horsemeat, and they regularly undertake proficiency testing, the risk of non-detection is extremely small. That’s an extra, final layer of assurance on top of all the other procedures and checks every reputable food processor will have in place throughout their supply chain to protect their brands.”

However, there was a lower consensus amongst the laboratories when it came to pork. Sykes explained: “It is encouraging that 100% of labs correctly detected pork in the beef samples, but 24% of labs incorrectly detected pork in samples that did not contain it. Three labs also chose not to test for pork at all.”

Sykes added that there needs to be better detection regarding pork, otherwise there could be a repeat of the horsemeat scandal in that specific sector.


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