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FSA News Item, 9 February 2015
A copy of the report is available on this site. See: Testing for the verification for the presence of undeclared meat species and allergens in lamb products from takeaway outlet
The Food Standards Agency has today published the results of its survey of undeclared meat in lamb dishes from takeaway outlets across the UK. The testing was announced last year and was prompted by evidence of ongoing substitution of lamb for cheaper meats, such as beef and chicken.
Local authority trading standards and environmental health officers sampled 307 lamb dishes, such as curries and kebabs, sold from takeaway outlets. All were tested for the presence of undeclared species of meat. Dishes with sauces were also tested for undeclared allergens and the unauthorised use of additives.
Of the samples tested, 223 (73%) were fully compliant with food legislation, 65 samples (21%) failed because of the presence of non-declared meat, 12 samples (4%) tested positive for the presence of undeclared allergens, including peanut and almonds proteins, and 7 samples (2%) were non-compliant because of the unauthorised use of additives.
The samples that tested positive for undeclared meat showed the presence of beef, chicken, and in one sample pork, although not sold as a halal product. Of these samples, 23 had levels of undeclared meat species below 1% which is more likely to indicate poor handling during processing rather than potential adulteration.
Local authorities have followed up on all samples where problems were identified and relevant action was taken including, in a number of cases, prosecution.
John Barnes, Head of Local Delivery at the FSA, said: 'Consumers need to know that the food they buy is what it says on the menu or the label. The FSA is working with local authorities to identify potential problems and investigate. Where problems are identified, local authorities are taking corrective action, including prosecuting offending businesses where necessary. The FSA and local authorities are on the lookout for deliberate meat substitution and action will be taken to protect local consumers and legitimate food businesses.'
The FSA's ongoing work to identify potential food fraud is being coordinated by the recently created Food Crime Unit. As part of this activity, the Food Crime Unit is working closely with local authorities, police forces, other Government departments, and the food industry to pool intelligence and take proactive action to protect consumers.
A risk assessment was carried out on the seven samples that tested positive for the presence of undeclared allergens. The levels found were indicative of low level cross-contamination from the ingredients used or from within the kitchen when the dish was being prepared. However, the levels were high enough to cause an allergic reaction.
Since December, new legislation has required food businesses to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged in catering outlets, such as takeaway restaurants. The FSA has help and advice on its website to assist businesses in understanding what food allergies are about and how to comply with the new allergen rules.
The FSA is clear that allergen management does not require much more than good food hygiene practices; but because allergens cannot be cooked out, food businesses need to know what allergens are present in their food ingredients or dishes. This can be achieved by clear labelling, good segregation and communication.
Allergy and intolerance: guidance for businesses
This guidance is designed to help food businesses provide information to customers who need to avoid certain ingredients because of an allergy. It includes the new allergen information rules (EU FIC), general advice and information on allergy and intolerance, and specific voluntary best practice guidance on cross-contamination controls for pre-packed foods and loose foods.
The samples which were non-compliant for additives relate to the presence of two colours Sunset Yellow (E110) and Ponceau 4R (E124). These are permitted additives but since May 2013 there have been new limits set on the levels allowed in food. The samples were compliant with the previous legislation, but exceeded the updated levels. A risk assessment showed short term consumption of the products was unlikely to lead to adverse health effects. The FSA is working with the industry and local authorities to ensure businesses are aware of the current legislation relating to these additives.