Horsemeat in Burgers

Reports emerged yesterday from the Irish Food Standards Agency of horse and pig DNA being found in beef burgers sold in Ireland and the UK.

Although not a food safety risk, the finding raises concerns about the reliability of a supply chain that can allow this cross contamination to occur, especially when there are reliable tests that can detect and prevent such contamination.

"Meat speciation methods have been available from our laboratory and others for many years," notes Barbara Hirst of RSSL. RSSL is a leading UK laboratory that serves many customers in the food and drink manufacturing sector. "We can detect DNA in meat samples that are specific to a particular species, and this tells us and our customers if meat is from the intended animal, or whether cross contamination has occurred. The same methods can also be used to speciate fish products, distinguishing between cod and pollock, for example.”

Seen against the cost of whole scale withdrawal of products, and commercial damage to reputation, regular testing of raw materials as part of a due diligence programme is a relatively low cost exercise that can avoid potential problems with finished products. Different kinds of tests will be needed to address different kinds of contamination issues, but when suppliers and manufacturers work closely with their testing laboratories it is possible to design testing regimes that will help maintain the integrity of the supply chain.

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