FSA warns on cross-contamination in mince

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned manufacturers that action could be taken if undeclared species are found in minced meat products at a rate of 1% or more.

The FSA and Defra have published the results of a scientific report by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) that states there should be no detectable cross-contamination of meat when producing minced meat.

The research, commissioned by the FSA and Defra as a result of food authenticity issues and food fraud during the horsemeat scandal, established that a 0.03% rate of raw pork in raw beef meat was “achievable”. It said: “A reporting limit of 0.1% raw pork in raw beef was established and further work indicated that a LOD (Limit Of Detection) of 0.03% raw pork meat in raw beef was achievable.”

The FSA board have finalised talks from January and have concluded that where there is a detection of 1% or more of undeclared species, this would be considered unacceptable and should be reported. The FSA reported that they were in talks with local authorities to establish appropriate action for manufacturers breaching this level of cross-contamination.

There is no legal requirement for manufacturers to clean mincing equipment between species, however the LGC concluded this is the most likely source of carry-over. Out of the 16 plants surveyed, five were considered to be of high risk of carry-over due to multiple species, but only one stated it did not wash down equipment between species. One plant, which scored as high risk, also processed “occasional halal” products.

The report concluded: “No pork was detected in any of the 12 samples taken at the single species, beef-only plant confirming that any pork detected during the other experiments was due to contamination during the mincing process, rather than contamination of the input meat itself. These results are reassuring in that contamination of foreign meat species would not be expected in a single species plant.”

Stephen Rossides, Director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said testing needs to be more robust: "The BMPA accepts the findings of this work, with which BMPA member companies cooperated, though members have some concerns about the range of tests that are available, the reliability and consistency of some test, and the accreditation of labs."


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