There is a high level of frustration among beef and lamb farmers at the reports of horsemeat in burgers, according to a sector expert.
EBLEX, the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England, has commented after horsemeat was discovered in ‘value’ beef burgers on sale in UK supermarkets.
Earlier this week Tesco apologised after Irish food inspectors said they had found almost 30% horsemeat in one brand sold by Tesco in the UK and Ireland.
EBLEX said clearer labelling on meat products to aid consumer choice and demonstrate greater transparency is needed to safeguard long-term consumer confidence in beef and lamb products.
Nick Allen, EBLEX sector director, said he backs the NFU view that retailers need to re-examine sourcing and labelling policies.
He said beef and lamb farmers adhere to strict guidelines on production, only to potentially be let down further up the supply chain.
“Co-mingling of meats of different country of origin has been repeatedly raised by consumers as a concern in recent years,” Mr Allen said.
“We would support calls for clear, simple labelling and welcome a debate on the issue.
“Origin is important to people. They want to know provenance and exactly what is in the product they are buying.
"While it is accepted that lower value meat products are unlikely to contain as high a proportion of beef than at the quality end of the market, the contents still need to be clearly labelled on the packet.
“We would encourage consumers to look for the assurance marks on packs, like the Red Tractor logo or the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef or lamb, which give a level of reassurance on where a product is from and that it has been produced to clearly defined standards.”
Mr Allen said in the light of the so-called ‘horsegate’ incident, EBLEX is looking at introducing random DNA testing to beef and lamb as an additional failsafe.
“We await with interest the outcome of the investigation into how the horsemeat found its way into value beef burgers,” he said.
“We can then look at making sure it cannot happen again.”