UK restaurants and caterers have unknowingly been serving chicken secretly injected with beef and pork proteins, a study by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found.
Food manufacturers in three EU states have been using bovine and porcine gristle and bones as water-retaining agents to bulk up chicken breasts to gain a higher price for them.
The FSA said that manufactures are permitted to add water to chicken products but this must be declared in the name of the food and listed as an ingredient when it is greater than five per cent.
It added that while food manufacturers can legally add hydrolysed pork and beef proteins as water retaining agents in chicken, this must be properly labelled.
The FSA's study looked at a small number of injection powders that claimed to contain only chicken protein. However, the analysis found that proteins from beef or pork were also present in some of the samples.
"The analyses applied indicate the presence of bovine collagen in all the powders sampled and suggest the presence of porcine collagen in some of the powders," the FSA said.
"Certification accompanying the powders claim they are produced only from a poultry source, however the analytical results suggest this claim could not be substantiated."
The FSA added that while use of these proteins does not make chicken products unsafe, "it is important that people are given accurate information about their food".
"There is no evidence to suggest that there is a widespread problem with undeclared proteins in chicken products but the Agency is carrying out further studies and gathering more information in partnership with other European Member States."
By Kerstin KÁ¼hn
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