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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 10:19 GMT
'Chemical' chicken scam revealed
Chicken dinner
Traces of pork were found in imported chicken
Nicola Carslaw

The Food Standards Agency has warned that some restaurants and takeaways may be serving chicken which is in fact mainly water and added protein, in spite of labels claiming a higher meat content.

The scam is that chicken is being sold to caterers that may only be half chicken and the rest is water and a cocktail of chemicals that is added to make the water stick in the chicken

John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency

It follows an investigation involving trading standards officers throughout the UK into the quality of chicken sold to the catering trade.

This has been a major investigation by the Food Standards Agency into the nature of the imported chicken we eat in restaurants and takeaways.

Across the UK, trading standards departments and scientists have looked into a practice that leads to a better price for an apparently bigger portion of chicken.

The chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, said there were misleading or inaccurate labels on many of the samples.

He told the BBC; "The scam is that chicken is being sold to caterers that may only be half chicken and the rest is water and a cocktail of chemicals that is added to make the water stick in the chicken."

"This is quite unacceptable."

Imported meat

The chicken sampled came originally from Asia and South America, passing through processors principally in the Netherlands and Belgium, and from there on to the UK.

Two samples, surprisingly, contained traces of material derived from pork.

Scientists believe this probably happened when hydrolysed protein mixed with water was added to the breast, almost doubling its weight. Even during cooking that water was not lost.

The Food Standards Agency, on its website, is publishing the names of companies whose chicken breasts were sampled. Many firms have said they had already altered their production process.

Now the Agency is warning caterers to be more vigilant about the products they order and to ensure each one is correctly labelled.

It has also written to enforcement agencies elsewhere in Europe to ensure the practice of bulking up chicken and selling it with inaccurate or misleading labels is stamped out.

Steve Butterworth, of the Trading Standards Institute, said: "We've been concerned for some time now that it has been going on, and that the unlabelled or inaccurately labelled breasts with added water and other ingredients have been finding their way on to the UK market.

"This must be stopped and the penalties for companies found to be breaching food laws must be far tougher than they are."

Meanwhile, the British Poultry Council said it was appalled by practices that gave the whole industry a bad name.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Farming 'needs greener standard'
19 Jul 01 | Scotland
Food firms 'fail hygiene tests'
09 Nov 01 | Health
Food poisoning linked to parties
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