Trading standards officials called yesterday for greater controls on the restaurant trade to try to cut back on the widespread sale of adulterated meat.

Under the proposals, menus should clearly show if dishes have used chicken injected with meat proteins such as pork and beef, which allow it to be bulked out using water. Officials said that if restaurants were forced to label their menus with dishes such as "Chicken Kiev with water and pork protein, and chips" the practice would end virtually overnight.

However, the move would need legislation and policing, and to overcome resistance from the catering trade to make it work. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said its measures to tackle the problem by lobbying for a ban on other meat proteins in chicken should be enough.

Repeated investigations have shown that by using protein, the meat absorbs more water and gives processors a bigger profit margin. The practice is currently legal as long as the protein is listed among the ingredients on the packaging.

Last month, food processors were caught by undercover reporters from the BBC's Panorama programme boasting of developing methods to disguise the proteins that would trick food testers.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI), a professional body representing the industry, said the adulteration of chicken remained widespread.

It said the water content of some chicken products was found to be as much as 55 per cent. It said protein from skin, bone and blood was also used to adulterate pork and beef.

However, chicken is the most routinely adulterated meat, with frozen bulk sales to the catering trade among the worst affected.

John Sandford, a spokesman for the institute, said that even if new regulations were introduced, trading standards officers would be hard-pressed to enforce the rules.