Muslims and Jews conned into eating meat bulked out with cow and pig products
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Cafes and restaurants across Britain have been selling chicken secretly injected with beef and pork waste, The Independent can reveal today.
In a hi-tech fraud run by firms in three EU states, food
manufacturers are making bulking agents out of porcine and bovine
gristle and bones that help inflate chicken breasts, so that they fetch
a higher price.
The swindle was only detected by the Food
Standards Agency (FSA) using new scientific techniques because the
non-chicken material had been so highly processed it passed standard
Thousands of restaurateurs and cafe owners are
likely to have been conned into buying chicken containing the powder –
which binds water into chicken breasts – while diners have been
unwittingly consuming traces of other animals when eating out.
two million Muslims, Jews and Hindus are forbidden from eating either
pork or beef. Muslims would ordinarily eat halal chicken and Jews
kosher chicken sold through approved caterers and butchers.
Hindu Forum of Britain described news of the adulteration, which will
be confirmed publicly today, as “shocking and potentially very
distressing”. Its secretary general, Bharti Tailor, said: “Eating beef
is expressly forbidden because cows are considered to be sacred as they
are a representation of the bounty of the gods, even unknowingly. The
fact that the protein powders injected into chickens served in
restaurants and cafes contain even traces of beef or pork is horrific.
And [the fact] that Hindus will have been eating beef contaminated
chickens will be mentally agonising. Many will feel that they have
broken their religious code of conduct.”
The food regulator
acknowledged the serious consequences of its findings. “Use of these
proteins does not make chicken products unsafe, but it is important
that people are given accurate information about their food,” the FSA
The fraud has been taking place for at least the past two
years, and still continues because of inaction by the authorities in
three EU states, believed to be Germany, Netherlands and Spain.
European Commission rebuffed British demands to ban beef and pork
proteins from being added to chicken when first detected in the UK and
Ireland in 2001 and 2003. Then, action was taken against a chicken
company in the Netherlands and the authorities thought the problem had
When complaints began to surface again last year, the
FSA launched a secret investigation to ascertain whether chicken – the
most eaten meat in the UK – was being adulterated again. At first,
scientists could not find any non-chicken protein because the meat had
been “de-natured” (made unrecognisable). The Central Science Laboratory
in York and York University developed special DNA market tests.
“It’s like Olympic drug tests; they stay one step ahead of the testers,” said a source close to the investigation.
in Germany and Spain are thought to be making the protein powders;
Dutch firms inject them into chickens sold on to UK wholesalers
supplying the catering trade.
Using a new DNA marker technique,
the FSA tested five protein powders from three companies. All five were
found to contain a non-poultry material identified as bovine collagen.
Further tests found the presence of porcine material in two powders.
Tests picked up traces of beef in one of three chicken breasts.
In a report passed to The Independent,
the FSA noted: “The study of a small number of injection powders used
in chicken breast products has indicated the presence of undeclared,
mammalian peptides, i.e., from a non-poultry source in the samples
analysed. The analyses applied indicate the presence of bovine collagen
in all the powders sampled and suggest the presence of porcine collagen
in some of the powders.”
It added: “Certification accompanying
the powders claim they are produced only from a poultry source,
however, the analytical results suggest this claim could not be
Manufacturers can legally add water to chicken,
for instance to improve succulence, but must declare water content of
above 5 per cent. Fresh chicken meat sold by supermarkets or butchers
cannot have any added ingredients. When the FSA alerted its continental
counterparts, the factories involved were inspected but no legal action
has been taken.
Some chicken products state on the label whether
they contain hydrolised (chicken) proteins. The FSA advised consumers
that they “may wish” to avoid such chicken. “If you are eating food
from a restaurant or takeaway you should ask if the chicken served
contains hydrolysed animal proteins,” the FSA will say today.
“Restaurants and catering establishments will have this information
available to them.”
Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at the
consumer group Which?, said: “It’s bad enough that when you think
you’re buying chicken what you’re paying for is an awful lot of water
and other animal proteins but if you want to avoid beef or pork for
religious reasons it’s going to be particularly shocking and annoying.
There’s a need for better enforcement action, or people will carry on
Religious views: Sacred products
are forbidden from eating pork as pigs are considered unclean animals.
The Jewish dietary laws are the laws of kashrut (keeping kosher). Hence
food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, food not in accord is
treifah or treif.
Observant Hindus who eat
meat almost always abstain from beef. The cow is sacred and beef has
been forbidden in the Hindu religion and diet. Hindu society honours
the cow and cow-slaughter is banned legally in almost Indian states.
The largely pastoral Vedic people and subsequent generations relied
heavily on it for dairy products and tilling the fields.
are prohibited from eating pork products. All meat must come from a
herbivorous animal slaughtered and bled to death in the name of God by
a Muslim, Jew or Christian, with the exception of game that one has
hunted or fished for oneself. Food permissible for Muslims is known as
Protein problems: Contaminated chicken
Food Standards Agency finds chicken with as little as 54 per cent meat
and undeclared protein. The FSA urges the Netherlands and Belgium to
The FSA and the Food Safety
Agency of Ireland find beef and pork in Dutch chicken. The FSAI warns
that the EU and the Dutch are failing to police labelling rules. The
European Commission rejects a call to ban beef and pork proteins,
saying the matter is “primarily an infringement of food labelling
No new surveys on chicken are published. Many believe the problem has gone away.
investigates new allegations, but pork and beef cannot be detected by
conventional DNA tests as it has been “de-natured” (rendered
unidentifiable from its origins).
Test results are obtained by The Independent.