The Food Standards Agency (FSA) orders local authorities to test 300 take-away samples after studies show lamb is often replaced with cheaper meat such as beef or chicken.
An FSA review of local authority sampling data found that out of 145 samples of lamb take-away meals, 43 contained meat other than lamb: 25 contained only beef, while others contained chicken and turkey.
The priority testing will take place across the UK from the beginning of May, with local authorities reporting their findings back to the FSA.
Without rigorous monitoring programmes in place cheats will always try to take advantage of consumers Professor Chris Elliot, Institute for Global Food Security
Consumer organisation Which? carried out its own survey, testing 60 take-away lamb curries and minced lamb kebabs from across Birmingham and London. It found that 24 of them had been mixed with other meats.
Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd said: “More than a year on from the horse meat scandal, our research uncovers shocking evidence of food fraud.
“The government, local authorities and the FSA need to make tackling food fraud a priority and take tougher action to crack down on the offenders.”
FSA Chief Operating Officer Andrew Rhodes said: “Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem. Clearly the message isn’t getting through to some businesses.
“The further priority testing we have announced today will focus the efforts of enforcement officers and raise awareness amongst food businesses of the action they face for defrauding consumers.”
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: “In the last year we have increased funding to £2.2m for local authorities to carry out food sampling and increased unannounced inspections of meat cutting plants.”
The government has asked Professor Chris Elliot, the director of the Institute for Global Food Security, to look into how to prevent criminal activity in the food chain. He said that he was not surprised by the initial findings: “Whenever issues about food contamination and adulteration are looked for in a serious way they are found.
“Without rigorous monitoring programmes in place cheats will always try to take advantage of consumers.
“We need to develop systems in the UK that deter fraud and help support the many businesses that work hard to deliver safe and authentic food.”