Meat fraud discovered in takeaways

Consumer magazine Which? has found shocking evidence of food fraud in lamb takeaway dishes, with 40% of meat tested contaminated with other meats.

As part of its Stop Food Fraud campaign, Which? tested lamb curries and kebabs in 60 takeaway restaurants in Birmingham and London, 24 of which had mixed their lamb with other meats, such as beef and chicken. Seven samples of meat contained no trace of lamb at all. The meat in five of the samples could not be identified, which could be a result of the meat being overcooked or re-cooked.

Birmingham restaurants fared worse than those in London; 16 out of 30 samples contained other meats and five of the samples contained no meat at all. In London, eight out of 30 samples contained other meats and two of the minced lamb kebabs contained just beef.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd called for more rigorous testing of meat: “More than a year on from the horsemeat scandal, our research uncovers shocking evidence of food fraud.” He added: “The government, local authorities and the Food Standards Agency (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.”

As a result of the findings, the FSA has announced an additional programme of priority testing of lamb in takeaway dishes. Local authorities have been asked to test 300 samples of lamb from local takeaway restaurants and report their findings to the FSA. Restaurants found to have contaminated dishes could receive a penalty of up to £5,000. Andrew Rhodes, FSA chief operating officer, warned the industry: “Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem. Clearly the message isn’t getting through to some businesses.”

Professor Chris Elliot, director of the Institute for Global Security, said: “The survey results come as no great surprise to me. Whenever issues about food contamination and adulteration are looked for in a serious way, they are found. Without rigorous monitoring programmes in place, cheats will always try to take advantage of consumers.

“We need to develop systems in the UK that deter fraud and help support the many businesses that work hard to deliver safe and authentic food.”

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