London: Hindu groups based in the UK have called on the government to enforce stricter disclosure norms after it emerged that many restaurants serving Indian food in Scotland were using the wrong kind of meat. In the wake of the Europe-wide horsemeat scandal that is still under investigation, it emerged that more than a third of Scottish curry restaurants could be using cheaper meat such as beef in dishes that claimed to be lamb.
"The issue does raise religious concerns as some Hindus who may eat meat would prefer not to consume beef as cows are considered sacred in our religion," said Anil Bhanot, managing director of Hindu Council UK. "Hindus are predominantly vegetarian but our estimates are that two-thirds of Hindus based in the UK are meat eaters and it is important they know what is being served to them. The government must require strict tests on the food industry so that there is proper disclosure of the source of the meat being sold and served to us. And, the results of these tests must be made public and transparent so we can make an informed choice," he added.
A spokesperson for the Hindu Temple of Scotland in Glasgow also highlighted it as a nationwide "concern". "However, 90 per cent of Hindus who are part of this temple tend to be vegetarians," he added.
The Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee, which is part of the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), carried out tests in 129 Indian restaurants north of England's border where curry - as Indian food is referred to, is quite popular. It claimed that cheap beef was passed off as lamb in 46 of those premises.
In 33 of those, there was no lamb in the dishes, while the remaining 13 used some lamb and cheap cuts of beef. The premises were identified in the report but have not been made public.
"There's been intelligence about it for a number of years, so there's nothing new about it," Professor Hugh Pennington, a leading bacteriologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said. "Quite a large amount of testing has been done, which has shown the scale of the problem. It's a bit like the horsemeat issue it's fraud," he said.
"Rather than one or two traders in Europe defrauding people, this is local and on a grander scale," the professor, who is also demanding that the premises be identified to allow customers to make their own choices, said. "It raises questions, not just about fraud, but also other issues.
"How good are their practices in the kitchen; if they are defrauding customers how safe are they in other aspects? So I think the local authorities, who are primarily responsible for regulation although the FSA has an overarching responsibility have to come down on these premises hard," he added.
Meanwhile, the extent of the scandal over suspected horsemeat in products labelled as beef is still unfolding across Europe. The FSA, which has already received a total of 5,430test results, has asked British retailers to test beef products for the presence of more than 1 per cent of horsemeat, with anything above that figure considered to be a sign of adulteration.
Its latest set of results found that more than 99 per cent of tests show no horse DNA at or above the level of 1 per cent. Horsemeat was first discovered in January in frozen burgers on sale in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and since then traces have been discovered in processed beef products and prepared meals across the European Union.