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Mislabelling of beef and poultry products sold in Malaysia

Chuah, Li-Oon, He, Xiao Bin, Effarizah, Mohd Esah, Syahariza, Zainal Abidin, Shamila-Syuhada, Ahamed Kamal, Rusul, Gulam
Food control 2016 v.62 pp. 157-164
DNA, beef, buffaloes, cattle, chickens, cleaning, cold, compliance, consumer protection, cross contamination, dogs, ducks, food labeling, food law, food processing equipment, geese, goats, ground meat, hygiene, luncheon meats, monitoring, monkeys, muscles, poultry products, processed meat, rats, sausages, sheep, supermarkets, swine, Malaysia
Meat species specification is important for consumer protection and increases concern in food labelling regulations enforcement. Although regulations exist for processed meat products, information on the prevalence of meat products mislabelling and regulatory compliance in Malaysia is lacking. In this study, 143 prepacked (beef and poultry) meat products (sausages, cold cut meats, cooked whole muscle meats, breaded products, meatballs and ground meats) were purchased from several national and international supermarket chains in Malaysia. These samples were analysed for the presence of common meat species (buffalo, cattle, chicken, goat, sheep, duck and goose) and meats prohibited by Islamic laws (“Haram”) (cat, dog, monkey, pig and rat) using species-specific primers. The results showed that 112 (78.3%) samples were mislabelled, attributed by the false declaration of species and/or presence of undeclared meat species. The mislabelled products consisted of 17/28, 3/4, 6/8, 19/25, 48/56, and 19/22 of sausage, cold cuts, cooked whole muscle meat, breaded product, ground meat, and meatball samples, respectively. Buffalo DNA was detected in 40 out of the 58 samples labelled as beef. The presence of undeclared chicken and buffalo DNA were detected in 33/58 and 62/84 of beef and chicken products, respectively. The five “Haram” meat sources, however, were not detected in all meat products tested. The presence of chicken or buffalo DNA in these products could be attributed to unintentional cross contamination from food processing equipment, especially meat grinder, and lack of proper cleaning or inadequate hygiene. In conclusion, this study shows that majority of the samples are not legally compliant, signifying that substitution and mislabelling of meat products are commonplace in Malaysia. Strict implementation of the Malaysia Food Regulations 1985 alongside with regular surveillance and monitoring programmes are compulsory to alleviate and deter mislabelling issues.