Food Law News - UK - 2006

FSA News Item, 17 May 2006

ORGANIC FOOD - New tests to spot ‘organic' labelling fraud

High Street retailers will soon be able to check if any of their supplies of chicken and pork have been mislabelled as ‘organic', following the development of new testing methods for the Food Standards Agency.

The new tests, developed for the Agency by the Government's Central Science Laboratory, were completed last year and have been checked using samples of pork and chicken bought in the High Street.

The tests are able to detect the presence and number of treatments of antibiotics in chicken bones or pork bones. This indicates one aspect of whether the chicken or pork has been reared organically or using non-organic farming methods.

The use of antibiotics is permitted in organic chicken and pork only once a year, to cure infection, whereas conventionally reared chicken and pork might show the use of antibiotics more frequently.

The tests will also indicate when antibiotics have been used more systematically – and illegally – on the animals as a growth promoting agent.

Most mislabelling fraud will, however, continue to be detected by local authority enforcement officers checking a ‘paper trail' to indicate if claimed organic produce has really come from an authentic source.

Local authorities are encouraged by the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services and the Agency's Authenticity Sampling Group to carry out their own surveillance programmes on organic labelling, and the Agency recently provided funds to assist Richmond Borough Council in pursuing legal action against two traders fraudulently selling meat and meat products as ‘organic'.

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