One-fifth of meat contains unspecified DNA

Mystery meat: One sample sold as ostrich meat was found to contain 100% beef.

Do we care too much about what’s in our food? Last year, more than one in five product tests found meat from an animal not on the label.

What’s happening

Beef comes from cows, right? Well, it turns out the mince in your spaghetti bolognese might have come from a goat, pig, sheep, duck or chicken as well.

That is the recent finding of the UK’s Food Standards Agency. One-fifth of the meat it tested last year contained animals that did not appear on the label.

Find out more

The meat samples came from restaurants, supermarkets and processing plants across Britain. Lamb was the meat most likely to contain other DNA, while beef DNA was the most likely to show up in other types of meat. Some samples contained DNA from four different kinds of animals.

The experts at the Food Standards Agency say that there was enough wrong DNA in the meat to suggest that it had been done deliberately. Substituting one meat for a cheaper kind has been fairly common throughout history — it is known as “food fraud”.

Just five years ago, there was another big scandal when several supermarket chains in the UK were found to have been selling beef which contained horsemeat.

How much should we worry about what is in our food?

Some say…

A lot! This story is disgusting. People do not like being lied to. After all, if we can’t trust companies to tell us what animal we’re eating, how can we trust them to be hygienic? This proves that we should buy meat from local farms and butchers so that we know where it came from. Or perhaps we should just become vegetarians…

Others think…

It is not a big deal. Who cares if a bit of beef shows up in some lamb? Neither of those meats are bad for you, and you probably won’t be able to taste the difference anyway. In the olden days, people used to put sawdust in bread to make it cheaper, which was much worse! As long the food we eat is made safely, we should not worry about it.

You Decide

  1. Is eating meat wrong?

Activities

  1. The experts who conducted this study tested 665 samples of meat. One-fifth of the samples contained something other than what appeared on the label. How many samples is that?

Some People Say...

“Not eating meat is a decision, eating meat is an instinct.”

Denis Leary

What do you think?

Word Watch

Bolognese
A traditional Italian pasta dish made with beef mince.
Processing plants
A factory where food is made.
DNA
The material which carries the genes of a living thing.
Substituting
Replacing one thing with another.
Horsemeat
Meat that comes from horses.
Hygienic
Clean and safe.

Subjects

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