Food adulteration – fancy some meat slurry, cheese analogue or isopropanol?

A recent report on food composition from the trading standards team in West Yorkshire, reported in the Guardian, made queasy reading if you were anywhere near processed food at the time. West Yorkshire is apparently one of the few parts of the UK that retains a leading public laboratory and maintains a testing regime, and their results suggest we should perhaps be doing more checking of what is actually in our foodstuffs.

Consumers are being sold food including mozzarella that is less than half real cheese, ham on pizzas that is either poultry or "meat emulsion", and frozen prawns that are 50% water, according to tests by a public laboratory.  The checks on hundreds of food samples, which were taken in West Yorkshire, revealed that more than a third were not what they claimed to be, or were mislabelled in some way. .. (there was ) even a herbal slimming tea that was neither herb nor tea but glucose powder laced with a withdrawn prescription drug for obesity at 13 times the normal dose”.

It is most unlikely that the biggest, household name manufacturers are involved in this – it just would not be worth the risk to their reputation and their brand names to perform this sort of subterfuge. But clearly, less well known firms may see it is worth taking the risk, and often the dodgy products are not sold in a recognisably branded manner or go into fast food production and the like.

But it is disappointing to think that somewhere, people are going to work to do a procurement job that involves buying “cheese analogue” for putting onto pizzas, or sourcing the cheapest ‘meat sluirry’ as an ingredient for pies or burgers, or even buying isopropanol, used in antifreeze and as an industrial solvent, to form a base for vodka production.

Some of the comments in the Guardian blamed the government for this, because ‘the cuts’ (in public expenditure) have led to a reduction in testing. That seems more than a little harsh; this didn’t all start in 2010. Adulteration of food has been a problem since the beginnings of trade and commerce. Let’s hope however that the pressure on public spending doesn’t mean we make it easier for the unscrupulous to get away with this. .

And one thing we can all do is realise that if something looks too good to be true in terms of its price, then there is every chance that it is too good to be true. 8 burgers for a pound? Do you really think that’s going to be the best quality beef?

And whilst we should offer our congratulations to West Yorkshire for doing this, it does seem disappointing that don’t actually tell us more details so we can make sure we avoid the particular products where appropriate.

More brominated vegetable oil and meat emulsion? Lovely, don’t mind if I do!


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First Voice

  1. Final Furlong:

    They eat their own kids in West Yorkshire, so these are simply minor additives (forgive the pun)…

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