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Meat tests reveal unspecified animals’ DNA in a fifth of samples

meat sample

A BBC investigation into meat testing conducted by the Food Standards Agency has revealed that a fifth of meat samples tested in 2017 contained DNA from animals not specified on the labelling.

665 samples were taken from 487 businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets. Of those, 145 were partly or wholly made up of unspecified meat. The FSA describes these levels are consistent with ‘deliberate inclusion’, which is defined as any product with more than 1% unspecified DNA. Any product with less than 1% unspecified DNA was excluded on the grounds that it may have occurred due to bad hygiene practices during production.

The FSA data revealed that 73 of the contaminated samples came from retailers, 50 came from restaurants and 22 came from manufacturing or food processing plants.

Meat labelled as lamb was shown to be contaminated in 77 cases, followed by beef (29 cases) and goat (19 cases). The most common DNA found in products labelled as other meats was cow, followed by pig and chicken. This suggests that the price of products may be the reason for these incidents of food fraud, as replacing expensive meat with cheaper products can lower the overall cost for manufacturers and/or suppliers.

Concerns about animal welfare, food hygiene and transparency for consumers have been raised in response to the findings.

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