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?