Welsh meat promotion body Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) has announced plans to carry out forensic checks on Welsh lamb to limit the risk of food fraud and cement its excellent reputation overseas.
HCC has launched a partnership with technology company Oritain as part of an initiative to preserve the integrity of the Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status of Welsh lamb.
HCC is in the middle of a major drive to grow export markets and recognises Welsh lamb’s PGI status is central to these efforts as a highly respected mark of quality and traceability.
Under the PGI scheme, lamb must have been born and reared in Wales and slaughtered and processed in an HCC-approved facility if it is to carry the respected Welsh Lamb label.
To reduce the risk of food fraud, Oritain has developed technology which can establish a “fingerprint of origin” in Welsh lamb, by analysing trace elements and isotypes which animals absorb from grass, water and the natural environment.
HCC says there is no evidence to suggest lamb being passed off as Welsh in order to increase its value is a major problem, but the use of the technology will act as a deterrent.
The initiative will involve testing random meat samples throughout the year, across all parts of the supply chain – from point of slaughter, through to the point of export.
HCC’s chief executive Gwyn Howells said: “Under this new partnership, lamb can be tested at any point in the supply chain and can be scientifically verified that it came from an animal reared in Wales.
“Welsh Lamb already has an excellent reputation for traceability among consumers thanks to the PGI scheme, administered in conjunction with NSF certification.
“But the new agreement with Oritain takes this to the highest level, ensuring that our premium brand has the ultimate in robust product traceability.”
Earlier this year, Quality Meat Scotland commissioned a study looking at the feasibility of introducing DNA traceability as an additional measure to guarantee the authenticity of Scotch Beef.
It said many steps were already in place to prevent fraud, but the introduction of a DNA-monitoring program would further strengthen these checks to underpin the integrity of the brand.
AHDB Pork has also recently completed DNA-testing trials which involved tracing individual meat samples back to the maternal sow.