Vivienne Nicoll, www.eveningtimes.co.uk
Food safety officers have swooped on Glasgow’s halal butchers after claims they were selling cheap cuts of beef as lamb.
Halal meat, which is slaughtered in a specific way and supplied by specialist butchers, is eaten by followers of Islam.
Glasgow City Council’s environmental services section was recently tipped off that illegal meat was being supplied to halal butchers in the city. This is from animals not slaughtered in an approved slaughterhouse or cut in an approved cutting plant and which is unmarked or poorly marked.
Council bosses were also told cheap cuts of beef such as chuck tenderloin were being sold to caterers as lamb.
A total of 42 halal butchers operate in Glasgow and play an important role in the distribution of meat across Scotland.
Land and environmental services director Robert Booth said: “To have maximum impact all premises were inspected in one day.”
He said the swoop was to establish if any had illegally slaughtered meat, to find out if they complied with health and identification mark rules, and whether beef was substituted for lamb.
Of the 38 premises which sold only halal meat, only 21 had fully documented invoices for all incoming deliveries, and 19 were found to have beef in stock.
Mr Booth said: “Based on officer experience, the presence of beef in such premises was previously relatively rare.
“It is unknown why there has been a marked increased in the presence of beef. However, its lower cost in comparison to lamb means officers must consider the possibility of substitution.
“In one premises, beef was being sold as curry meat with no indication it was beef.”
Samples are now being taken of takeaway meals to find out if beef has been substituted for lamb. Firms which have made the swap face prosecution.
Letters have also been sent to all halal butchers, warning them to buy meat only from reputable butchers.
Mr Booth said: “The aim of the survey was to ensure the protection of the ethnic community from the sale of illegal halal meat.
“In most cases, meat was not thought to have been slaughtered or cut illegally but contained no legible health mark or identification mark.
“While this may seem strict, the marks are designed to indicate the meat has been legally slaughtered or cut on approved premises and is fit for human consumption.
“Failure to ensure these requirements are enforced will make it easier for illegally slaughtered meat to enter the supply chain.
“The potential risks from the use of illegal meat include hygiene complications and the spread of infection and disease.”