The Food Standards Agency has come under fire for refusing to name five products that tested positive for horse or pork DNA.
Yesterday, the FSA announced that 352 beef products had tested negative for horse and pork.
However, the food watchdog reported that a further five samples were being challenged (three found to contain horse and two pork) and were awaiting the outcome of further tests. “If the products are found to be positive for contamination above the 1% threshold, the results will be reported on the FSA website,” it said in a statement.
“We’ve got to be very clear that if we’re going to name a business, we’ve got a good and confirmed result” - Food Standards Agency
The FSA’s decision not to publish all results sparked criticism from Mary Creagh, shadow secretary of state for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “People need to know which food companies are challenging the government’s official test results,” she told The Daily Telegraph.
An FSA spokeswoman denied any deliberate secrecy or that the FSA was taking a “cloak-and-dagger” approach. “We’ve got to be very clear that if we’re going to name a business, we’ve got a good and confirmed result.”
In addition to the 357 tests, tests on seven further products were carried out as part of the survey. Of those, three had tested positive for pig DNA at or above the 1% threshold, and two tested positive for horse DNA at or above the threshold. The other two samples were discounted because they did not meet the criteria in the sampling protocol.
Tests for horse DNA were meant to be a key tool for restoring consumer confidence, but if products given the all clear later show up positive for horse DNA after all, that confidence could soon be eroded once more.
So what are the industry and consumers to make of contradictory test results?
The three products that tested positive for pork were Asda Spaghetti and Meatballs, Asda Beef Cannelloni and Apetito Beef Lasagne (which the FSA identified on 8 March). The two that tested positive for horse were a Whitbread burger and Ikea meatballs (both had previously been reported by the food industry).
Two samples were not reported because they did not meet the criteria in the sampling protocol. One did not meet the product criteria and there were concerns that the other had been cross-contaminated with pork products during sampling, which would have invalidated the results, the FSA said. “The protocol was specific in terms of the way samples should be collected, to ensure the integrity of the sample in case of any possible enforcement action,” said the FSA spokeswoman.
The tests were carried out on the FSA’s behalf by 28 local authorities.