Supermarkets to be investigated after traces of TURKEY is found in Tesco’s vegan meals

Claims that meat has been found in some supermarket vegetarian ready meals have sparked an investigation by Britain’s food watchdog.

The Food Standards Agency said it would act after laboratory tests indicated traces of turkey in a Tesco vegan macaroni meal and pork in Sainsbury’s ‘meat-free’ meatballs.

Sales of vegetarian and vegan products are soaring in the UK, with the latest data revealing that one in ten shoppers bought a meat-free ready meal in January.

Tests carried out at a Germany lab showed traces of pork DNA in Sainsbury’s own brand 380g Meat Free Meatballs

The findings will shock the growing number of people who are cutting back on meat for health or animal welfare grounds, as well as religious groups that abstain from eating meat.

The Daily Telegraph reported that it sent ten items to a German government-accredited food testing lab which analysed them for eight types of meat. The FSA said yesterday: ‘We are investigating the circumstances surrounding these alleged incidents and any resulting action will depend upon the evidence found.’

The vegetarian meatballs from Sainsbury’s bore the Vegetarian Society’s ‘approved’ mark. But, according to the newspaper, the society ‘seldom checks’ manufacturers, which pay up to £10,000 to use its green ‘V’ logo.

Lynne Elliot, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society, said: ‘We have stringent criteria that any product must meet in order to display one of our trademarks.

‘We conduct site visits but, for example, where a facility manufactures exclusively vegetarian products, this would be unnecessary. It is the producers’ responsibility to ensure production processes are followed and to reduce the chance of human error.’

Sainsbury’s said in a statement that its own-brand vegetarian meatballs were made at a meat-free factory and that regular inspections had not raises any issues. It added: ‘We are concerned by these findings, however, and are carrying out a comprehensive investigation alongside our supplier.’

Turkey DNA was found in Tesco's Wicked Kitchen BBQ Butternut Mac, which is labelled as being vegan

Turkey DNA was found in Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen BBQ Butternut Mac, which is labelled as being vegan

Tesco said it had carried out initial DNA tests on the product in question, its BBQ Butternut Mac, and found no traces of animals.

‘We take the quality and integrity of our products extremely seriously and understand that our vegan and vegetarian products should be exactly that,’ Tesco said.

It added that it was awaiting further details about the investigation, including full details of the report produced by the German laboratory.

It is just the latest food scandal to hit Britain.

The Food Standards Agency said it would launch an investigation (stock image)

The Food Standards Agency said it would launch an investigation (stock image)

Late last year, undercover reporters from ITV and the Guardian found workers at factories run by one of Britain’s biggest chicken processors, 2Sisters Food Group, altering slaughter dates and putting back on the production line poultry which had dropped on the floor. And in 2013, in one of the most notorious scandals, horse meat was found in lasagne marked as containing beef.

A leading food expert said last night that the inspection regime needed to be toughened up as food contamination scandals were coming round ‘like clockwork’.

Joanna Blythman added: ‘The system as it currently stands does not safeguard consumer and public health and inspections could be more rigorous.’

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s environment spokesman, said: ‘These findings are deeply worrying.

‘It is important that the Food Standards Agency is given the full resources needed to conduct an extensive investigation.’