THE discovery of beef in lamb curries tested in Scottish restaurants raises new issues over public trust in the food chain, experts have warned.
Food officials found one in three dishes tested contained cheap cuts of beef when they were only supposed to contain lamb.
Public confidence has already been damaged after revelations about the widespread use of horsemeat in ready meals.
Professor Annie Anderson, professor of public health nutrition at Dundee University, said yesterday that consumer trust would once again be hit by the discovery of irregularities in the food chain.
Professor Hugh Pennington, the Aberdeen-based bacteriologist, said the issue raised concerns about the standards practised by food outlets.
The Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee, part of the Food Standards Agency, carried out tests in 129 Indian restaurants in Scotland.
It found that cheap beef was used instead of lamb in 46 premises. In 33 of the cases there was no lamb in the dishes, while in 13 there was some lamb as well as the beef.
The committee’s report said: “A significant minority of operators appear to be intentionally mis-describing food.”
However, the report did not name the businesses involved.
Increases in the price of lamb could be behind the use of beef in curries. Lamb prices have risen to £9 a kilo, while cheap cuts of beef cost £5 a kilo.
Prof Anderson said: “There has been a lot of press saying if we ate more locally produced meat we wouldn’t have a problem because horses don’t go through our abattoirs.
“That is not true for beef and lamb and those could be mixed up.
“The bigger issue is from a consumer trust perspective. We have a right to purchase the things we believe we are getting.”
She added: “The bottom line is what on Earth is happening in the food system that we are not getting what we are told we are getting? This indicates that we really do need an overhaul of our food chain.”
Prof Pennington said people needed to have confidence in the people preparing the food they were eating.
“Are you confident that the manager of the restaurant is getting his staffed trained, is doing all the right things in terms of there is no cross-contamination?
“You can have all the records, but do you believe what the records say?” he said.
“So although there isn’t a food safety issue for the people who have eaten there now as far as one knows, it does raise issues of trust.”