Research into the mislabeling of meats has uncovered horse meat mixed in with other ground meat sold in the U.S. commercial market.
For a study of ground meat products sold in the U.S., researchers from the Food Science Program at Chapman University in California analyzed 48 samples and found that 10 were mislabeled.
One sample was entirely mislabeled with regard to what type of animal meat it contained. Nine samples had meat from an additional type of animal mixed in. In two of those cases, the mix contained horse meat, which is illegal to sell in the U.S.
Rosalee Hellberg, an assistant professor in the Food Science Program and co-author on both studies, states in a news release from Chapman University:
“Although extensive meat species testing has been carried out in Europe in light of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, there has been limited research carried out on this topic in the United States. To our knowledge, the most recent U.S. meat survey was published in 1995.”
The study notes two possible explanations for multiple types of animal meat being found in the same ground meat product:
- Unintentional cross-contamination at the meat processing facility. This occurs when multiple types of animal meat are ground on the same equipment without it being properly cleaned in-between.
- Intentional mixing in of a lower-cost animal meat with a higher-cost meat for economic gain, such as to reduce costs or increase profits.
Another study by the same researchers found that 10 out of 54 samples of game meat sold online by U.S. retailers were potentially mislabeled.
Two products labeled as bison and one labeled as yak were identified as domestic cattle. One product labeled as black bear was American beaver, and one labeled as pheasant was helmeted guinea fowl.
Both studies were published in the journal Food Control.
Overall, the researchers found that mislabeled meat was more commonly obtained from online specialty meat distributors rather than from supermarkets.
To learn more about food fraud, which includes mislabeling, check out “6 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of ‘Food Fraud.'”
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