Leicester study finds widespread breaches of food labelling law

Widespread contraventions of food labelling law were found in a nine-month programme of meat product testing carried out by Leicester City Council, but no food safety concerns were raised.

The council launched the city-wide programme in May last year in response to the horsemeat scandal, when lamb burgers labelled as halal, and supplied to a city primary school, were found to contain pork DNA.

One-hundred-and-five meat products were tested from local businesses. Of these, 47 samples were found to contain meat from species other than that declared, and at levels regarded as gross contamination, said the council.

Samples of beef sausages and burgers were found to contain chicken, while samples of lamb curry were found to contain only beef or turkey. Samples of lamb mince from butchers’ shops were also found to contain undeclared beef or chicken. No undeclared pork of horsemeat was found in any of the samples.

Councillor Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for neighbourhood services, said: “While these test results reflect the findings of similar exercises in other parts of the UK, they will still be disappointing news for consumers.

“What we’ve found is a widespread confusion about the importance of accurate labelling by sellers and manufacturers. Fortunately, our officers have been able to advise businesses on relatively simple steps they can take to put this right and how to help ensure that the food they buy in is what it is described as.”

The council said it would be sharing its findings with the Food Standards Agency, and calling on it to implement a campaign to ensure that all food businesses, especially takeaways and restaurants, have better understanding of labelling regulations.

Last month a West Yorkshire public laboratory published findings from a six-month study, showing that 38% of food products, including meat, were mislabelled or had compositional faults.

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