/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Pork and chicken – what else is in your lamb curry?

Yesterday, trading standards officers revealed that of the lamb curries and kebabs they bought from takeaway restaurants, very few contained just lamb. Most contained other cheaper meats, and some no lamb at all!

The trading standard officers visited 20 restaurants and takeaways in the Midlands, from which they bought 39 lamb curries and kebabs. They then tested these samples to see what meat was in them.

Four of the curries contained no lamb at all, with the meat instead made up of a mixture of pork, beef or chicken – all of which were cheaper cuts of meat.

None of the 20 lamb kebabs contained just lamb, with other meats in there as well. Only three of the 19 curries tested contained only lamb.

The history of food fraud

Not only could people of certain faiths unwillingly eat meat they’re not supposed to, but everyone else is paying for something they think they’ll get, when they’ll actually be getting a cheaper product in return.

This is food fraud and it’s been going on for years. In Victorian times bread was adulterated with chalk (to make it more white), potato flour (cheaper than wheat flour) and alum, all of which helped the breadmaker use inferior quality flour.

There were even cases of bakers mixing dough with plaster to make their bread heavier, and confectioners using poisonous lead and mercury salts to make their sweets brightly coloured and more attractive.

And while these are no longer a problem, it’s clear from this latest research that there are still many unscrupulous traders happy to con us.

And it’s not just takeaways

Several trading standards officers have told me about fake booze they’ve seized – less serious cases include a customer buying a bottle of whisky and getting home to realise it was filled with apple juice. And then there are the dangerous examples, such as counterfeit vodka containing high levels of methanol (used in antifreeze) which can lead to blindness.

You might think that, since you don’t eat local takeaways or buy cheap alcohol, you won’t be affected. But food fraud isn’t just restricted to cheaper products. In past testing the Food Standards Agency has found bags of basmati rice with a mix of basmati rice and other cheaper varieties of rice.

And last year, a study by the US consumer organisation Consumer Reports revealed that one in five fish was mislabelled in shops and restaurants, where often more expensive varieties were replaced with cheaper ones.

So, how can we trust the food we buy if it’s sometimes not what it says on the tin?

Comments
Member

Shefalee is right to point out examples of our long and amazing history of food adulteration.

Being given pork and chicken instead of lamb or the wrong kind of rice would worry me less than the appalling standards of hygiene and and use of food unfit for human consumption, which have frequently been reported in documentaries.

I cannot say that I am surprised by this report and I feel sorry for those who run their restaurants and takeaways honestly and hygienically.

Member

The thing that most horrifies me about this is the fact that many people, for religious reasons, just can’t eat things like pork or beef. There’s a whole world of difference between padding out a takeaway with more veg/potato, and actually substituting some meat for others.

I love a lamb korma, but I’m going to be extra-careful from now on and see if I can taste anything unusual.

Member
ricky says:
3 May 2012

Its not true that for religious reasons many people “cannot eat pork or beef” its just that they have been indoctrinated to believe that their God disapproves of one meat or the other.
Actual physical intorence to some food is something else entirely.
As far as I know lamb in Indian restauarants is often goat, which in my opinion is an excellent meat though not normally sold in the UK food stores.

Member

That’s quite a specific point about language! Obviously I’m not implying that people are physically incapable of eating it, but I think it is extremely important to consider other people’s beliefs, even if you don’t subscribe to them yourself. In the same way as I’d be horrified to find meat in something labelled ‘vegetarian’ I’d be horrified to know that friends I have who are Jewish have unknowingly eaten pork, for example. Especially if it’s a cost-cutting measure on the part of the restaurant, as it seems to be, rather than a genuine mistake.

Member
Bob S says:
3 May 2012

With regard to the comments so far, it seems members are forgetting the essential point here that the public is simply being cheated by the traders. (It is NOT about traders’ hygiene or the consumers’ religious or other quirks). Of course, the enforcing authorities do have to have regard to (1) the degree, or seriousness, of each offence of trader cheating and (2) to the question of public interest and the costs before launching a prosecution under the Food and Drugs Acts or the Trade Descriptions Act, However it does seem that there is an awful lot of cheating about – both overt and covert! Consumer confidence in the food industry’s integrity seems justifiably sceptical and
this should be regarded as a serious matter by the public.

Member

I completely agree, Bob, but we live in a world where cheating consumers is the norm and has a particularly long history in the case of food adulteration. I would love if all the cheats could be fined or put out of business, but I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Eating the wrong meat is not going to make me ill, whereas poor hygiene could. That is why food hygiene is my priority. If Trading Standards was funded by fines then it could have the resources to tackle the cheating traders.

Member

Dont know about the ill bit, whatever I ate in that kebab roll in London was certainly not lamb, and made me as sick as the dog it probably was.
And the vendors had the cheek to put a Halal sign in the window!
If TSO wont act, how about the religious police stepping in?

[Hi M., we’ve made a small edit to your comment for libel reasons. Thanks, mods.]

Member

@m.

Religious police in Britain?!… in countries that have, intercede
principally as to infringements of Sharia (law).

Nah… wdn’t myself eat greasy cuts from such big blob of compacted minced
meat on a takeaway that are often manufactured and purchased from a
central depot or warehouse.

In upmarket Turkish restaurants, chefs may lovingly prepare
stuff themselves with authentic proper meat (may throw in offal though)
that I had a positive experience of consuming, but
just once, as a dinner guest.

Member

@Argonautoftheseas.
If claiming dodgy/ doggy meat is Halal isn’t breaking Sharia law, then I don’t know what is!
Anyway it was a tongue in cheek comment [ouch].
My mistake, for eating that take away when I could have bought a couple of apples instead.

Speaking of Turkish restaurants, there is one I do frequent, I now know the chefs routine and go when he is ‘prac