A significant number of takeaways available for sale in the UK that are advertised as being lamb-based contain traces of meat from other animals, a food industry investigation has found.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has now announced plans to carry out tests on takeaways that supposedly contain lamb after samples of chicken and beef were found in a large number of dishes.
Traces of these other meats were detected by Which?, as it purchased 30 lamb curries and 30 minced lamb kebabs and shockingly discovered that 24 of the 60 dishes contained beef or chicken. All of the meals were bought from takeaway outlets located in London and Birmingham.
In addition to this, the FSA found that 43 out of 145 takeaways sampled between July and December 2013 by various local authorities contained other meats alongside lamb. Some were solely beef, while others featured chicken and turkey too.
Reassuringly, no samples contained horse meat following last year's widespread scandal.
In light of the lamb-related contamination, the FSA is launching a new testing programme that will focus on the examination of dishes advertised as containing the meat to clamp down on this substitution for cheaper animals.
Local authorities across the UK are being asked to analyse 300 samples from various takeaway restaurants and report the findings back to the government body.
If meals are found to have been contaminated and deliberately mislabelled, businesses could find themselves facing prosecution and fines of up to £5,000.
Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer of the FSA, said: "Substitution of lamb for cheaper meats in takeaway food … is unacceptable and we are working closely with local authorities to ensure robust action is taken against any businesses misleading their customers.
"Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem."
The tests on supposedly lamb-based dishes will start at the beginning of May.