- Food safety officials are checking whether frozen chicken
breasts on sale in the UK could be mixed with beef protein, thus posing
a potential BSE risk.
- The Food Standards Agency said it was carrying out "more
sensitive tests" to check for beef proteins in certain brands of chicken
fillets from the Netherlands and other countries, including the UK.
- But it stressed no evidence of bovine material had so
far been found in any chicken in the UK.
- All food should be labelled accurately - this is very
important to us because pork is absolutely forbidden according to the Koran
- Muslim Council of Britain
- The Guardian newspaper reported that "vast quantities"
of chicken adulterated with beef protein powder could be on sale in the
UK - and that this in turn could pose a risk of BSE.
- The scare followed UK FSA tests in December, which found
that some chicken breasts contained pork protein not stated on the label.
- These sparked studies in the Irish republic which found
"foreign DNA" in more than half its samples of the products -
some from beef, some from pork and some from both.
- Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of
Britain, said the apparent lack of labelling was "deeply worrying"
for people who for religious reasons cannot eat pork or beef.
- "All food should be labelled accurately. This is
very important to us because pork is absolutely forbidden according to
- BSE fears
- Proteins are sometimes added to chicken to make the meat
absorb water. The process, known as "tumbling", has been common
in the Netherlands for several years but also happens in other countries.
- Any bovine material should have been subject to European-wide
- UK FSA
- But DNA tests are only now sophisticated enough to spot
- The FSA said that even if beef traces were found, there
should not be a BSE risk.
- "Any bovine material should have been subject to
European-wide BSE controls, the same controls which apply to all beef products.
- "Therefore, provided these controls have been applied,
any traces of beef that may be in the chicken products would not raise
any new food safety concerns."
- Labelling issue
- The agency said that under European law, it is not in
itself illegal to add water or hydrolised protein such as pork - if the
added ingredients are properly labelled.
- However, the FSA said that if the chicken products were
not accurately labelled, that would be illegal.
- We have no reason whatsoever to assume this will cause
any BSE-related problems
- Dutch FSA
- The FSA said it had raised the matter with the Dutch
authorities, but had been dissatisfied with the response and had since
approached the European Commission.
- The Dutch Food Safety Authority said the companies involved
would be given an official warning for improperly labelling their export
products but would not be fined, as no real health problems had been caused.
- "These additions are not illegal and the only problem
is that they were not mentioned properly on the labels," spokesman
Bert Hendriks said.
- "We have no reason whatsoever to assume this will
cause any BSE-related problems."