Food Standards Agency reveals significant number of meat products are mislabelled

Six years after the horse meat scandal, a freedom of information request (FOI) has revealed how British meat is still being mislabelled.

The findings by the Food Standards Agency showed instances where meat had come from animals that were not declared on the label.

Are you confident the meat you're buying is what it says it is? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Are you confident the meat you're buying is what it says it is? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Incorrect meat labelling

According to an FOI request issued by The Mirror, retailers, restaurants and caterers were all found to have meat products which had not been properly labelled.

Sixty-nine tests were carried out by the FSA between June 2018 and May 2019, and they found 12 items that were contaminated with “unspecified meat or DNA species not declared on the label.”

Among some offenders were ham that did not contain ham, lamb doner kebabs without lamb and pork sausages that were not 100 per cent pork, as they also contained lamb and beef.

David Pickering, from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute called the revelation “a fraud consumers can’t see”.

“How would you know that the ham in your sandwich is not really ham?” Pickering asked.

FSA statement

A spokesperson for the FSA clarified that the tests were “not random or representative sampling”, but instead targeted areas where mislabelling was more likely.

They said, “Local Authorities carry out targeted food sampling at businesses where mislabelling is more likely and this is not representative of the wider food industry.

“Where samples show a product has been mislabelled, it will be investigated by the Local Authority and appropriate action will be taken.

“This can include issuing informal warnings or taking enforcement action such as prosecutions or cautions.”

The horse meat scandal

It appears that consumers are still being misled on the content of the food they’re buying, despite the horse meat scandal from 2013 that prompted police investigations.

The controversy rocked the UK, as parts of Europe found that some foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared horse meat. In some cases, as much as 100 per cent of the meat content was horse meat.

Food labelling laws

Food labelling laws are in place to protect consumers - the FSA states, “Falsely describing, advertising or presenting food is an offence and there are many laws that protect consumers against dishonest labelling and misleading descriptions.”

According to the FSA, if mislabelling is done deliberately, it is considered criminal fraud, regardless of whether it poses a food safety threat or not.

The government states that in order to sell food and drink products, the label must be:

- Clear and easy to read

- Permanent

- Easy to understand

- Easily visible

- Not misleading

There’s basic information that also must be shown, like the ingredients, as well as certain warnings.