The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published the findings of two surveys examining the authenticity of beef and lamb products. As part of an ongoing EU-wide programme on food fraud, the FSAI’s study of beef products found no traces of horse DNA in the 52 beef products analysed, which included burgers, meat-based meals, corned beef, meat balls and pasta dishes. This demonstrates compliance by the industry. However, a separate study by the FSAI examining lamb kebabs and lamb dishes in takeaway restaurants raised concerns about the presence of undeclared meat, such as chicken and beef.
An FSAI survey, carried out in collaboration with the Health Service Executive last month, revealed the presence of meats other than lamb in seven of the twenty foods sampled from independent takeaway restaurants in Dublin City, which were described on the menus/menu boards as containing lamb. The study tested for the presence of DNA from bovine, pig, sheep, goat, horse, chicken and turkey in ten kebabs and ten lamb dishes. Horse, goat, pig or turkey DNA was not found in any sample.
Six of the seven foods with undeclared meat were described on the menus/menu boards as lamb kebabs, but most of these did not contain any lamb at all or only contained lamb in very small quantities. All six lamb kebabs with undeclared meat contained over 60% chicken and 5–30% beef. Only three of these six lamb kebabs were found to contain lamb, however, the levels were as low as 1-5%. Finally, one of the ten lamb dishes sampled – minced meat for lamb skewers – with undeclared meat that was described on the menu/menu board as lamb, was found to contain over 60% beef and over 30% lamb.
Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, stated that while this is not a food safety issue, the fact that undeclared meats have been identified raises concerns about misleading consumers and not giving them the correct information about the food they are eating.
“When you order a lamb kebab you expect to get a lamb kebab and not a beef and chicken kebab. Incorrectly listing meat products on a menu or menu board, whether inadvertently or by design, is an unacceptable infringement of the labelling legislation. The FSAI is committed to protecting consumers’ interests and ensuring the integrity of the Irish food supply chain. We will not hesitate to take appropriate action on food businesses that are found to be intentionally misleading consumers through incorrect labelling or display on a menu or menu board.”
Prof Reilly stated that last year’s incident surrounding the adulteration of beef demonstrates how vital consumer trust and confidence is for food businesses and for Ireland’s wider food industry. He states that a key lesson for food businesses is that they must have robust supplier controls in place at all times to ensure that they know who is supplying them and that all products and all ingredients are authentic. Food businesses also have a duty to their customers to ensure the food they are selling is labelled correctly so that consumers can make an informed decision on what they are buying.
The FSAI and its official agencies carry out a number of surveys and studies each year as part of its proactive monitoring activities. These product surveys provide a snapshot of the status of products on the market at a specific time. The legal responsibility for placing safe food on the market lies with the food industry and the FSAI routinely monitors and samples for compliance.
The FSAI operates an Advice Line on 1890 33 66 77 from 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday to Friday.