Horsemeat is not the only protein caught up in a mislabelling scandal. A new US report indicates up to one third of fish sold in the US could be mislabelled.
In an analysis by Oceana, an international sea conservation organisation covering more than 1,200 samples across 674 outlets in 21 states, over 400 were shown to be mislabelled following genetic testing.
The samples covered a range of fish from retail stores and restaurants. There was a higher percentage of mislabelling towards the more expensive end of the market. Snapper and tuna were replaced by the cheaper rockfish, tilapia and escolar, and farmed salmon and cod replaced their more expensive wild-caught cousins.
Coffee continues to be a tale of two beans. Arabica prices fell again, down 30.5% year-on-year and 3.4% month-on-month, largely due to healthy production forecasts for 2012/13, especially in Brazil. Global production this season is forecast to grow to 88.4m bags, up 9.1% year-on-year.
Meanwhile, prices for the cheaper Robusta are on the rise, increasing 9% in the past month and 8.5% year-on-year due to growing demand from budget-conscious consumers.
Basmati rice prices are up 7.9% month-on-month to £681.7/tonne and 43.3% year-on-year, as a result of reduced plantings in India. And despite a minor blip, UK feed wheat prices remain strong, with production expected to fall by 13% to 13.3m tonnes in 2012/13.
The mislabelling doesn’t end there - olive oil, sweeteners, coffee, spices, basmati rice and fruit juices continue to be common targets for fraud.
The impetus, clearly, is the potential for making large sums of money by substituting cheaper ingredients. For example, fresh US snapper is four to five times more expensive than imported tilapia, while horsemeat is a quarter to half the price of beef.
So why now? In the case of beef, because it has never been more profitable - beef prices increased significantly in the UK and Europe in the past decade and reached new highs in 2012. Average 2012 prices were 20% to 30% higher than in 2010 due to the downward trend in EU production, a temporary dip in South American production and high feed prices. EU beef production is expected to fall further, but South American production should recover and reduce some of the pressure seen in global availability.
These factors could lead to a drop in EU beef prices and make the market less attractive to such substitution.