The Food Standards Agency has announced additional testing of lamb dishes from takeaway restaurants across the UK following evidence of substitution for cheaper meats.An FSA review of local authority sampling data, from July to December 2013, found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb. In total, 25 of these samples were found to contain only beef. Other meat species identified included chicken and turkey. No samples were found to contain horse meat.The mislabelling of food can result in fines of up to £5,000.The concerns identified in the local authority data are also reflected in a survey of lamb dishes from restaurants in Birmingham and London released today by Which? The consumer organisation purchased 60 lamb takeaways, 30 curries and 30 minced lamb kebabs, of which a total of 24 were adulterated with beef and chicken.Andrew Rhodes, Chief Operating Officer at the FSA, said: "Substitution of lamb for cheaper meats in takeaway food, as seen in our own data and the survey released today by Which?, is unacceptable and we are working closely with local authorities to ensure robust action is taken against any businesses misleading their customers."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."The further priority testing we have announced today will focus the efforts of enforcement officers and raise awareness amongst food businesses of the action they face for defrauding consumers."Following the completion of the priority testing programme, authenticity testing of takeaway lamb dishes will continue as part of local authority sampling programmes.The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it was hugely disappointed by the news that 43 out of 145 meat samples from lamb takeaways recently tested were not in fact lamb.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “We are really disappointed that this is still going on and lessons haven’t been learnt from the horsemeat scandal. Transparency and honest labelling that people can trust is absolutely essential and NSA is pleased the FSA and local authorities will be is taking additional action to stamp out malpractice.
“Sheep farmers work exceptionally hard to do the job right and turn out a high quality and traceable product; they are subject to strict animal identification laws and onerous inspection regimes, and many voluntarily participate in additional assurance schemes too. This news is a slap in the face to a sheep sector that puts in so much effort. We have been let down by individuals further up the food chain who are not showing respect for the honesty, traceability and high value of the work sheep farmers do.”
Beef, chicken and turkey were found in the 43 non-lamb samples, but no horsemeat. The FSA has asked local authorities to test 300 samples of lamb from takeaways from the beginning of May, with the threat of a £5,000 fine for takeaway owners who are found to be mislabelling food.