Another meat scandal? Are blood and offal secretly mixed in?

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A cow's kidney

Nottingham Trent University has published a study which has claimed that blood and offal are being mixed into meat products sold by British shops - without making this clear on the label.

The researchers tested 57 products from 10 retailers - although the retailers were not named. They found that 12% contained offal that hadn't been declared on the label and 9% contained blood serum.

Why?

The reason for adding these things to meat products is usually financial. Offal is significantly cheaper than other cuts of meat - so by introducing it to a product, the overall price of the ingredients will be lower. Blood products, meanwhile, may be used as a 'glue' to hold together cheap pieces of meat to look like expensive cuts.

There's nothing wrong will eating either. However, they ought to be clearly labelled in order to allow consumers to make a choice - so they know that a product is a cheaper option because it contains offal rather than because it is just particularly keenly priced.

There could also be situations where blood from one animal was used to 'glue' meat from another - so someone buying chicken could unwittingly be consuming a pork product.

Don't panic

The results were published in The Grocer, which speculated that this could mean another meat scandal - hot on the heels of the horse meat scandal last year, and disquiet earlier this year over supermarkets and restaurants which were serving Halal meat which hadn't been labelled as such.

However, the magazine emphasised that there were several reasons to be cautious about the findings. The study was only on a small scale and used testing methods that hadn't been validated. There is also no clarity over whether the meat products contaminated locally reflect a problem on a national scale. This is one reason why the retailers and products have not been named.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was quick to try to diffuse concerns, explaining that until testing methods were verified, this could only be considered to be 'anecdotal evidence.' However, it told Meatinfo that in light of the research, it was working on their own study - and later in the summer it will publish the results of a small-scale pilot investigation.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting how the meat industry is cleaning up its act. After the horse meat scandal broke last January, the food industry introduced testing for horse meat DNA in beef products in February. In the 16 months since, 38,473 beef products have been tested for horse meat, and 47 were positive. Over time the positive results have dwindled, and the last time it was found in the UK was in canned sliced beef from Romania, discovered in October last year: the time before that was a beef pie from Latvia in July 2013.