Chicken injected with beef waste sold in UK

Muslims and Jews conned into eating meat bulked out with cow and pig products

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 DNA tests.

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.

Britain's 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.

The 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 said.

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.

The 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 gone away.

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.

Manufacturers 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 substantiated."

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 doing this."

Religious views: Sacred products

Judaism

Jews 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.

Hinduism

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.

Islam

Muslims 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 halal food.

Protein problems: Contaminated chicken

2001

The Food Standards Agency finds chicken with as little as 54 per cent meat and undeclared protein. The FSA urges the Netherlands and Belgium to tackle exporters.

2003

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 legislation".

2004-2007

No new surveys on chicken are published. Many believe the problem has gone away.

2008

FSA 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).

2009

Test results are obtained by The Independent.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones