In Depth

Investigation launched after meat traces ‘found in supermarket vegetarian meals’

Lab tests showed vegan and ‘meat free’ food from Tesco and Sainsbury’s contained animal DNA

The Food Standards Agency is investigating claims that traces of meat were found in UK supermarket products classified as vegan or vegetarian.

Pork traces were found in Sainsbury’s “meat free” meatballs during laboratory tests, while traces of turkey were discovered in a Tesco vegan macaroni ready meal, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Announcing the launch of an inquiry into the findings, a FSA spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure consumers can be confident that the food they eat is safe and is what it says it is.

“We are investigating the circumstances surrounding these alleged incidents and any resulting action will depend upon the evidence found.”

The Telegraph sent a number of samples to a food testing lab accredited by the German government.

The results reportedly showed traces of pork DNA in Sainsbury’s own-brand Meat Free Meatballs, which cost £1.50, and traces of turkey DNA in Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen BBQ Butternut Mac ready meal, which is labelled as being vegan and costs £4.

The presence of whole-animal DNA “suggests the presence of meat or animal skin in the product, though it could also be traced back to gelatine or oil”, says the BBC.

Tony Lewis, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said consumers would be “appalled” by the findings, which could point to a far wider problem.

He said: “I would have expected Sainsbury’s to have high standards, so if they have problem you have to question who else has a problem. Other retailers will likely be using the same factory and could also be affected.

“If you're starting to find stuff in food that shouldn’t be there, the question is what else is in there – this is this potentially a much wider issue.

“Consumers who’ve eaten these products will be appalled, because they bought them in good faith.”

A spokesman at Peta, a vegan group that has previously endorsed Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen range, said: “These findings will come as a massive shock to many, including, we suspect, those producing these foods.

“As the demand for vegan meats skyrockets, we urge manufacturers to improve their line-cleaning practices.”

Both supermarkets say they carried out their own tests on the products under investigation and found no traces of meat. 

“These products are produced at a meat-free factory,” said a Sainsbury’s spokesperson. A Tesco representative insisted: “Our initial DNA tests have found no traces of animal DNA in the BBQ Butternut Mac product available in stores today.

“We would urge the Telegraph to share full details of their testing, including the lab used, as we continue to investigate.”

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