(NaturalNews) Tests carried out in Ireland have found traces of cow and pig DNA in chicken products being sold in grocery stores, raising concerns over unlabeled cross-species ingredients.
The issue first came to light in December, when the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency (FSA) found traces of pork proteins contained in chicken breasts. The labels to these breasts had not listed any non-chicken ingredients.
"All food should be labeled accurately," said Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. "This is very important to us because pork is absolutely forbidden according to the Koran."
Other religions, such as Judaism and Hinduism, also place restrictions on the consumption of pork, beef and other animal foods.
In a followup study, Irish researchers found traces of cow and pig DNA in more than half of all chicken products sampled. In none of these cases were the non-chicken ingredients identified on the label.
Regulators believe the foreign elements entered the chicken through a process known as "tumbling," in which proteins are deliberately injected into chicken meat to make it absorb more water. Although this practice is legal, European law requires that any added listed be included as ingredients on the package label.
Because many of the contaminated chicken breasts came from the Netherlands, the FSA filed a complaint with that country's government. The Dutch government promised to send the companies involved a warning over their improper labeling, but said it would not fine them. Dissatisfied with this response, the United Kingdom is seeking action from the European Commission.
The presence of beef proteins in poultry meat has also raised concerns over a risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The FSA rushed to allay these fears.
"Any bovine material should have been subject to European-wide BSE controls, the same controls which apply to all beef products," the agency said. "Therefore, provided these controls have been applied, any traces of beef that may be in the chicken products would not raise any new food safety concerns."