THE National Sheep Association (NSA) has described new evidence suggesting nearly 30 per cent of “lamb” takeaway meals contain meat other than lamb as “a slap in the face” for sheep farmers.
An Food Standards Agency (FSA) review of local authority sampling data, from July to December 2013, found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb.
Twenty-five of these samples were found to contain only beef, with chicken and turkey also identified in some samples.
However, no samples were found to contain horse meat.
An NSA spokesman said: “This is hugely disappointing.
It shows lessons have not been learned from the horse meat scandal.
“Because of these findings, we are introducing an additional programme of priority testing of lamb dishes from takeaway restaurants across the UK.”
Local authorities are being asked to test 300 samples from takeaway restaurants and report the findings to the FSA. Sampling will start at the beginning of May.
Businesses could face prosecution if food is found to have been deliberately mislabelled.
This could result in fines of up to £5,000.
The concerns identified in the local authority data are also reflected in a survey of lamb dishes from restaurants in Birmingham and London released today by consumer organisation Which?.
Out of 30 lamb curries and 30 minced lamb kebabs it sampled, 24 were adulterated with beef and chicken.
FSA chief operating officer Andrew Rhodes said: “Substitution of lamb for cheaper meats in takeaway food, as seen in our own data and the survey released today by Which?, is unacceptable and we are working closely with local authorities to ensure robust action is taken against any businesses misleading their customers.
“Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem. Clearly the message isn’t getting through to some businesses.”
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We are really disappointed that this is still going on and lessons have not been learned from the horse meat scandal.
“Transparency and honest labelling which people can trust is absolutely essential and the NSA is pleased the FSA and local authorities will be taking additional action to stamp out malpractice.
“Sheep farmers work exceptionally hard to do the job right and turn out a high quality and traceable product and are subject to strict animal identification laws and onerous inspection regimes, while many voluntarily participate in additional assurance schemes.
“This news is a slap in the face to a sheep sector that puts in so much effort. We have been let down by individuals further up the food chain who are not showing respect for the honesty, traceability and high value of the work sheep farmers do.”