Study: 20% of sausages tested in Canada contained unlabeled meat

The phrase “meat adulteration” sends shivers down the spines of those in the meat industry. And ever since the highly publicized 2013 horse meat scandal, the term scares consumers too.

The issue returned to the spotlight this month when a study examined sausages sold in grocery stores mostly near three major Canadian cities.

Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario examined 100 sausages that were labeled as containing a single ingredient: beef, pork, turkey or chicken. They found that 20% of the sausages tested contained unlabeled meats beyond trace levels.

“About one in five of the sausages we tested had some off-label ingredients in them, which is alarming,” said Robert Hanner, lead author of the study.

The study was commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which wanted to see if scientific tools used by researchers could be used for regulatory practices.

What that 20% of sausages did contain, in many cases, was a mix of meat, such as pork in an allegedly beef sausage. Of 15 tested “turkey” sausages, five were made of straight-up chicken, nothing else.

“The good news is that typically beef sausages predominantly contain beef, but some of them also contain pork, so for our kosher and halal consumers, that is a bit disconcerting,” said Hanner.

Because of the high numbers of contamination, intentional food fraud is being blamed for the sausages. If it were a matter of not-thorough sanitation practices in meat producing facilities, only trace residues would likely be present.

Though 20% is not an ideal number, food fraud statistics in Canada are lower than in other countries. CBC News reports that some European studies show that 70% of samples contain unlabeled ingredients.

CBC also reports that after investigating, the CFIA found that the adulteration comes down to traceability. Meat and production records were not properly maintained.

Food industry professionals struggle with the food safety supply chain. In an increasingly global market, keeping detailed record on ingredient sources is a challenge.

Neogen offers meat species identification tests for a wide variety of meats. Click here for more information.

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