Pubs and restaurants are labelling foreign beef as "local" or "British" according to a BBC investigation in the south-west of England.
The BBC DNA tested meat at 40 pubs and restaurants and found that eight of the samples were from the zebu, a breed of humped-back cow found in Brazil, Africa and Asia, despite claims that it was locally sourced.
As a result of the investigation the Food Standards Agency has called for the law to be re-examined, forcing pubs and restaurants to prove where their meat has come from in the same way as butchers have to with raw meat.
The National Beef Association told the BBC that the practise was a "great big con" and was exploiting customer demand for locally-sourced food.
Last year a similar investigation by ITV consumer show Undercover Mum found steaks sold in JD Wetherspoon and Greene King's Hungry House pubs were zebu.
Following that investigation Greene King said it insisted on rigorous standards from its butchers to provide beef from recognised, traceable herds.
The English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) have excluded Zebu meat from its quality standard beef scheme since July 2007.
Rob McFarlane, director of meat and poultry at Prime Meats said: "All caterers have to remember is if they wish to promote the provenance and origin of the meat on your menu it is essential to be sure it comes from where they think it does. There is a growing trend of promoting provenance on menus and if what's being stated is incorrect the consequences can be serious, not to mention the loss of trust with your customers."
McFarlane added that caterers should ask suppliers for proof of origin, as under the beef labeling regulations, meat should clearly show where it was slaughtered, cut and packed.
By Christopher Walton
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