Science will prove if beef is really Scottish

A MAJOR initiative to authenticate the provenance of beef labelled as Scotch or Scottish is to be launched by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland.

The move comes in the wake of the horsemeat scandal and will use the latest scientific techniques to prove if beef sold in butchers’ shops and supermarkets has genuinely been produced in Scotland.

“There is no doubt that the horsemeat scandal has undermined the public’s confidence in food labelling and there is more interest in how food is produced and where it comes from,” said FSA Scotland director Charles Milne.

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“This initiative will build on what local authorities are already doing and underpin the authenticity of beef so that if people buy beef labelled Scotch or Scottish, they can be sure that is what it is.”

Both Scotch beef and lamb hold the EU’s coveted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status granted to regional food products of high quality which are unique to a geographic area.

A map of Scotland is being drawn up showing the chemical analysis of the soil in each area from which scientists can determine with a high degree of accuracy the exact area where cattle have been reared.

A database of 350 samples of beef of confirmed origin from around the UK has already been created and this will now be extended to the whole of Scotland.

A sample of raw neck beef will enable scientists to pin down exactly where the beef originated. It is hoped to start sampling as soon as the database is completed which should be by the end of next year.

“The results show that, where the origin of beef is known, it is possible to correctly identify around 70-80 per cent of samples accurately,” said FSAS enforcement officer Peter Midgely.