From our friends at the Equine Welfare Alliance & The Wild Horse Freedom Federation:
A paper published in May by Chapman University reveals that 10 of 48 meat samples were labelled incorrectly. Two of these samples included horsemeat.
Instances of mislabeling represent cases of food fraud, which may be a result of factors such as poor traceability, accidental cross-contamination resulting from improper handling, inadequate cleaning of equipment between species, or intentional fraud carried out for reasons of financial gain.
From the study abstract:
“The objective of this study was to test a variety of ground meat products sold on the U.S. commercial market for the presence of potential mislabeling. Forty-eight ground meat samples were purchased from online and retail sources, including both supermarkets and specialty meat retailers. DNA was extracted from each sample in duplicate and tested using DNA barcoding of the cytochrome coxidase I (COI) gene. The resulting sequences were identified at the species level using the Barcode of Life Database.
Any samples that failed DNA barcoding went through repeat extraction and sequencing, and due to the possibility of a species mixture, they were tested with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork and horse. Of the 48 samples analyzed in this study, 38 were labeled correctly and 10 were found to be mislabeled. Nine of the mislabeled samples were found to contain additional meat species based on real-time PCR, and one sample was mislabeled in its entirety. Interestingly, meat samples ordered from online specialty meat distributors had a higher rate of being mislabeled (35%) compared to samples purchased from a local butcher (18%) and samples purchased at local supermarkets (5.8%). Horsemeat, which is illegal to sell on the U.S. commercial market, was detected in two of the samples acquired from online specialty meat distributors.
Overall, the mislabeling detected in this study appears to be due to either intentional mixing of lower-cost meat species into higher cost products or unintentional mixing of meat species due to cross-contamination during processing.”