Analysts find 38% of food samples are mislabelled

A West Yorkshire public laboratory has published findings from a six-month study, showing that 38% of food products, including meat, were mislabelled or had compositional faults.

Adverse reports on meat products were due to issues such as lamb being sold as beef, turkey ham being served on pizzas instead of ham, and cross-contamination in meat. No horsemeat was found in any products.

The study, carried out by West Yorkshire Joint Services during the six months to 30 September 2013, looked at 873 samples, 331 of which received adverse reports.

The majority of the problem products were non-meat. Mozzarella cheese was found with less than 50% dairy in it, herbal slimming teas with no herbs or tea in them were discovered, while spice adulteration was also commonplace.

However 14 samples of meat, including mince and diced meat were found to contain meat from species other than that named.

Laboratory head Dr Duncan Campbell said: “The problems with meat were partly due to people in catering establishments buying beef and selling it as lamb, cross-contamination in small butchers due to not cleaning equipment properly, and turkey ham on pizzas instead of ham. Basically, people making more money by undercutting competition with cheaper products.”

The information comes at a time when there is a widespread demand for clearer labelling. Scotland’s Food Minister Richard Lochhead has launched a partnership campaign with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to drive forward improvements on food labelling, while MEPs recently rejected a European proposal for pork and poultry origin labelling as insufficient.

Lochhead said: “I will ensure that improving labelling is a priority for Scotland’s new food body, when it is established next year. But in the meantime it is really important that work is taken forward now to address the frustrating and damaging issue of misleading labelling information.

“That is why I am launching a clear labelling initiative, which will involve the Scottish Government working with the FSA, industry and, above all, consumers to deliver greater clarity and transparency for the shopper.”

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