Food Quality News has published an article that highlights the cases referred to the Government Chemist in 2015 which included novel investigations, familiar issues and re-emerging questions. The most challenging investigations involved alleged allergens in spices, for which the GC had to develop completely new methods of analysis. Familiar issues included aflatoxins, naturally occurring cancer causing contaminants; and there were also issues to resolve relating to pesticides residues, food authenticity, and residues of veterinary medicines. Two issues resurfaced after gaps of several years; illegal dyes and the choking hazards of jelly mini-cups.
Focus on food authenticity remained high in 2015. The FSA funded 2014-15 National Sampling Programme included an additional element of local authority testing of lamb dishes from takeaway restaurants for meat speciation (and where appropriate for allergens and additives). There were over 60 samples considered to be non-compliant when sampled by a local authority from the restaurant and its suppliers which needed following up.
The Public Analyst reported one lamb sample as satisfactory, however a product described as goat meat was reported to contain only sheep DNA. Moreover the Public Analyst also reported a minced lamb product with a substantial amount of chicken DNA, a “cooked lamb curry” with only beef DNA and a sample described as “cooked minced lamb” was found to contain chicken DNA as well as sheep DNA. Proceedings were instigated in the Magistrate’s Court and the defendant supplier entered a ‘not guilty’ plea. Anticipating a possible analytical defence the local authority requested a referee analysis of the retained portions of the samples.
The GC applied both ELISA (to check the protein) and real time PCR (to identify cell nucleus DNA) to multiple replicates of the samples. The “cooked lamb curry”, consisted of seven pieces of cooked meat and some sauce. The GC tested multiple replicates of each piece of meat (and the sauce) individually and showed that the meat was beef and not sheep meat. The “goat meat”, also consisted of seven pieces of raw meat and similar detailed analysis confirmed that the meat was sheep and not goat. The GC found the “cooked minced lamb” to consist of a mixture of chicken and sheep meat, and the “minced lamb”, consisted of a mixture of sheep and chicken meat.
Hence the GC upheld all of the Public Analyst’s findings and the defendant was found guilty and received a total penalty (fines and costs) of £7100.
Read full article and the Government Chemist Annual Review for 2015.