Food inspectors in the Bradford area are ahead of the game on lamb curry takeaway fraud.
Testing was stepped up in the wake of last year's horse-meat scandal – meaning other problems such as meat substitution were also flagged up.
And following reports published yesterday of beef being used instead of lamb, the head of West Yorkshire’s trading standards service urges consumers to challenge restaurant owners if they are doubtful about a meal. David Lodge spoke out as it emerged that takeaways hoodwink customers by selling lamb meals which contain other types of meat.
The scam has been spotlighted in two separate surveys by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and consumer group Which?
Bradford councillor Val Slater, chairman of West Yorkshire trading standards committee, said food safety was a priority in the city and advised customers to use FSA star ratings as a guide to quality.
Mr Lodge said some restaurants had already been prosecuted for this kind of fraud.
“Lamb has become very expensive and some businesses cut costs by using cheaper meats,” he said. “For some religious groups this is a real problem.”
He said spotting such fraud was not easy. “Curries are highly spiced and it’s not always obvious that the meat you ordered is the one you get,” said Mr Lodge.
“Just be careful. If in doubt, tell the restaurant owner and double-check. Challenge them.”
Mr Lodge said curry fraud was a problem. “We were alerted as a result of the horse-meat scandal and while we were testing for that, other issues were identified, such as beef or chicken being used instead of lamb,” he said.
In response to reports that the FSA wants councils across the UK to start a major sampling programmes of lamb dishes to flush out rogue traders Mr Lodge said: “We are ahead of the game here. We have been focusing on curries for some time – hence the prosecutions.
“We have been doing routine sampling for more than a year so we probably don’t need to step up our inspections now.”
Coun Slater said inspectors have identified incidents where beef has been used instead of lamb and that updates from the public analyst helped trading standards monitor the situation.
“We have not had any specific complaints in Bradford recently,” she said. “And because we have our own public analyst we are probably a safer area than many others. When we do get a complaint or an inspection flags up a problem, we quickly get something done. Much of this is about confidence. My advice would be to use good quality takeaways. If the business has a high hygiene rating from us that would be a good sign, along with a Council Good Food award. That should give customers a feeling of confidence that this an okay business.
“Although the award is primarily about healthy eating, it would nonetheless be a good indicator. Take note of council ratings as a guide.”
Coun Slater said anyone who does have suspicions about food fraud should contact trading standards. “It will be followed up,” she said.
The FSA Food Fraud Helpline is on (0207) 276 8527.