Isotope testing carried out by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has been described as highly effective in verifying whether British pork products are truly British.

AHDB said Britain’s pork sector is at the forefront of driving the use of the technology to protect the sector and its brand.

Isotope testing is used to indicate where an animal was raised. This can helped in identifying if pork products are being mis-sold as British.

This protects the British brand, AHDB‘s animal health and welfare scientist Dr. Miranda Bowden-Doyle said, as well as protecting producers from fraudulent produce and protecting the price of “premium British pork”.

“There have been several cases of potential food fraud in the British meat sectors in recent years, most recently in March 2023 when beef sourced from South America and Europe was sold as British,” she said.

“The high levels of inflation we are currently seeing will be pressuring businesses, which could make fraud more likely as British products often command a price premium.

“Our isotope-testing project for pork, which has been running since 2009, acts as both a deterrent and an early warning system, protecting British pork from similar scandals and boosting both the sector’s reputation and consumer confidence.”

Food fraud

Managing director of Food Forensics, which conducted the testing on behalf of AHDB, Alison Johnson, said the testing can help shield the pork sector from incidences of food fraud seen in other sectors.

“The testing is highly effective, correctly categorising more than 90% of samples submitted, and can distinguish British and Irish products from imported samples,” she said.

“The more engagement we get from the sector, the better we will be able to protect our British brand.

“We urge all food business operators to get involved in collecting reference samples, either by collecting samples themselves using the Food Forensics remote-witnessing process and sending them to Food Forensics or by allowing auditors or Food Forensics staff to collect samples on their behalf.”

The larger and more regularly refreshed the reference sample database is, Johnson said, the more robust the test and the fewer flagged results likely to be seen.

“By being on the front foot, the pork sector can provide a real point of difference and protect themselves against the food fraud samples we have seen in other sectors,” she said.