Contamination in Halal products – detailed explanation

By on 12/04/2013 in Factsheets

The following seeks to fully explain Birmingham City Council’s process regarding the discovery of contamination in Halal products.

How did BCC discover pork contamination in Halal Products?
As part of the recent meat adulteration issues Birmingham City Council (BCC) Environmental Health have submitted a number of samples to the laboratory to test for the presence of horse meat. In addition all the samples were then tested for the presence of other undeclared meat species. Over 200 samples of meat products, including Halal products have been submitted for testing.  Sampling has been targeted at small and medium size enterprises (SME) retailers to complement the work being done by the large retailers via the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

What products were affected and where were they discovered?
The product contaminated with pork protein was Humza Brand Chicken Burgers in packs of 20 with a best before date of 10th May 2013. This was discovered in two separate samples.

Did BCC have any other adverse results from the samples taken from other businesses?
•    three beef/venison burgers from three different non Halal butchers shops were found to contain pork DNA.
•    Beef burgers manufactured in Birmingham were found to contain horsemeat in four separate tests, all products in the batch were recalled.
•    three products were found to contain horsemeat, two of these were above 1% and have been referred to the FSA for further investigation.

What did BCC do when the pork contamination was identified?
Immediately that the contamination was identified BCC contacted Roshan Foods and ordered a recall of all affected products from retail outlets supplied. In addition a press release was issued to advise consumers about the contamination and what action they should take. This has been backed up with further media activity giving a clear message that the chicken burgers detailed above were contaminated with pork proteins.
BCC also referred the information to the Food Standards Agency and the authorities in Somerset to allow for investigation at the manufacturing company.

Where were the Chicken Burgers made and whose responsibility is it to ensure they are not contaminated?

The Humza chicken burgers were manufactured by a company in Somerset and purchased by Roshan Foods. At their premises in Birmingham the burgers were re-packed into Humza brand packaging. The manufacturing company in Somerset should ensure that any product they produce is not at risk from any cross contamination, and it is the duty of the authorities in that area to check their procedures. Roshan Foods are responsible for any products they pack and distribute, they should satisfy themselves that the company in Somerset are reputable and able to fulfil their requirements.

What does approval mean?  Did BCC approve Roshan Frozen Foods to re-pack the products from Somerset?
Roshan Frozen Foods are approved under European Community (EC) Hygiene Regulations to manufacture certain meat products, they are also approved to re-package other meat products. The approval is strictly related to hygiene matters and not the composition of any meat products. No specific approval was given for Roshan to purchase burgers from the company in Somerset, they can purchase products from any EC approved manufacturer. It is Roshan's responsibility to decide where to purchase products from and to ensure those products meet their requirements.

Did BCC approve the products from Somerset as Halal? When a business claims their products are Halal what is the role of BCC in ensuring this is true?
BCC have not approved the products originating from the company in Somerset as Halal, as we have no authority to do that. Any products marketed as Halal in Birmingham are subject to the same checks as mentioned above, ultimately it is the responsibility of Roshan Foods to ensure the products they pack as Halal meet the relevant criteria, they should seek assurances or certificates to confirm this.

When officers are undertaking routine inspections of food premises, where a claim of Halal is made, checks are made to verify this in accordance with Food Standards Agency guidance.  This would include for example, any certification, traceability records, product labelling and local knowledge of suppliers.  Where any suspicion arises, officers will make further enquiries which may involve communication with the FSA and other local authorities.

This could lead to more detailed investigation resulting in formal action. BCC has recently undertaken a major investigation into Halal claims which are the subject of on-going legal investigation relating to potential fraud, misdescription and food labelling issues.  We have been supported by the FSA to carry out this work.

What role does the authorities in Somerset have, and the Food Standards Agency?
Sedgemoor District Council Environmental Health carries out hygiene inspections of the Somerset Company and will approve them under EC hygiene regulations. Somerset County Council Trading Standards will investigate any mis-decription or deliberate adulteration issues occurring at the Somerset company. The Food Standards Agency will lead on any nationwide recall of products.

What further action has been taken by BCC to reassure the community about the true nature of Halal labelled meat?
Further formal samples were taken from Roshan Frozen Foods of Humza products, all have come back clear of pork contamination.

We will continue to investigate any incidences where consumers are being misled or contamination is identified, including the taking of formal action if necessary. It is this vigilance that identified the recent reported problem, resulting in decisive action being taken by the city to alert consumers.

In addition the city council has devoted more than half of our sampling programme this financial year to detecting undeclared meat species in meat products. This will of course include the testing of Halal products for pork contamination.

Ends.

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