The new UK meat testing regime agreed by the Food Standards Agency, retailers and processors will allow for a 1% tolerance level for the DNA of other species in meat products.
The threshold was agreed at a meeting between the FSA, Defra and the industry on Monday (4 February).
At the meeting, the industry also agreed to share its own meat DNA test results with the FSA, which will make them publicly available. Separately, the FSA is carrying out its own food authenticity programme on processed meat lines. The first results are expected in April.
It is understood the 1% level will apply to both the industry’s own tests and the FSA authenticity programme, meaning products that test positive for quantities smaller than 1% will not be identified in the results.
In the survey by the Food Safety Agency of Ireland, which kickstarted the horse meat contamination scandal, all but one of the 10 burgers that tested positive for horse DNA contained less than 1%.
“The FSA and industry are confident that labs can reliably test to 1% and that levels of DNA at sub 1% are unlikely to indicate deliberate contamination,” a spokeswoman for the FSA said. “We will be looking at this issue further and engaging directly with consumers as we move forward.”
Retailers and processors have welcomed the 1% threshold. “What matters is that the industry will be given a very clear target to work towards,” said one retailing source. “Most processing plants in this country process multiple species, and given how sensitive tests are, you will always pick up traces of something.”
It is understood the 1% tolerance will apply to mainstream meat products only, and halal- or kosher-certified products are likely to require a 0% tolerance for pork traces.