After horsemeat - what’s really in a Yorkshire ‘lamb’ curry?

A STAGGERING 80 per cent of “lamb” curries sold in North Yorkshire contain cheaper meats – and the con is now a now one of the biggest scandals since the horsemeat affair, a crackdown by trading standards officers has revealed.

Anne McIntosh

Only two lamb curries tested in rural Yorkshire were the genuine article. One was a mix of lamb and beef and seven were lamb mixed with chicken.

Divisional food officer Rob Blacklock, from North Yorkshire County Council, said: “I was astounded. Takeaways are usually low risk but curries seem to be a particular problem.

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“It may be they are just not getting the visits they used to get, because we have had to cut down because of the cuts.

“We are going to follow it up and try to get to the bottom of why this is happening.

“We do not normally go to takeaways but we had intelligence that this was going on.”

Officers also found that “almonds” in lamb pasandas were often groundnuts, including peanuts, which had been reduced to powder and added to the sauce.

North Yorkshire launched the investigation after a probe by West Yorkshire trading standards revealed one in two lamb curries on sale locally probably contained no lamb at all. Now that two Yorkshire consumer watchdogs are finding problems checks are being extended to South Yorkshire.

The problems are not being reported in London or southern counties.

A tip-off a few weeks ago to West Yorkshire trading standards from a “whistle-blower” within the curry business led them to curry houses in Wakefield and Calderdale owned by those who control much of the industry in Bradford.

Investigators posed as customers to order lamb dishes – then whisked them away to laboratories for testing.

One female officer ordered a lamb balti over the phone and pulled out her ID at the counter.

The takeaway owner confessed there was no lamb in it and is one of the first facing prosecution under the Food Safety Act.

Trading standards officers have checked two areas of North Yorkshire – but refuse to say where they are. Now a purge of the whole county is to be carried out.

A North Yorkshire County Council spokesman said: “As a result of inspections of catering premises by North Yorkshire County Council trading standards, officers have now begun formal investigations into alleged incidents of meat substitution.”

The Food Standards Agency has revealed it is providing a £1.6m top-up this year for local trading standards to target the issue of “meat substitution”.

It spent £1.6m last year on extra sampling which confirmed there was a problem – particularly in the North where restaurant margins are narrower than in the South.

In South Yorkshire, trading standards officers are teaming up with environmental health officers to target Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.

Thirsk and Malton Conservative MP Anne McIntosh chairs the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee which heavily criticised the FSA’s response to the horsemeat scandal.

She said: “Clearly, the consumer has a right to know not just that the food is fit to eat but it is what it says it is on the label.”