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Authenticity and standards

On 20 July 2010 the food authenticity programme was transferred from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to Defra along with food labelling and composition policy not related to food safety or nutrition. 

The food authenticity programme supports the enforcement of food labelling and standards legislation through the development of methods that can determine whether foods are correctly labelled. 

Food authenticity is a term which simply refers to whether the food purchased by the consumer matches its description. 

Misdescription can occur in many forms, from the undeclared addition of water or other cheaper materials, or the wrong declaration of the amount of a particular ingredient in the product, to making a false statement about the source of ingredients i.e. their geographic, plant or animal origin.

The programme aims to address all food authenticity issues, whether linked to a particular product sector such as meat, or more generally to the origin of the food or its ingredients.

The authenticity programme comprises three work-streams; research, surveys and knowledge transfer.


The food authenticity research programme applies novel technology where possible to develop robust methods that can be used to check that foods are correctly described and labelled.


Food Authenticity surveys are also performed on food in shops to check the accuracy of food labelling. 

List of surveys since 2000  

Title of Survey Date of publication
Survey on fish species in the catering sector Dec 2008
Survey on the meat content of certain meat products Oct 2007
Production method and geographic origin of fish May 2007
Survey of soya ingredients in meat and other products Mar 2006
Survey on fat content in minced meat           Sep 2004
Survey on Basmati rice Mar 2004
Survey of undeclared horse/ donkey meat in salami – type products Dec 2003
Survey to investigate the varietal labelling of potatoes – part 2 Dec 2003
Survey to investigate the varietal labelling of potatoes – part 1. Oct 2003
Survey to investigate added water and protein in chicken Mar 2003
Survey of added water in raw scallops, ice glazed (peeled) scampi tails, and scampi content in coated (breaded) scampi products Nov 2002
Antimony arsenic, nickel and bromate in bottled water Aug 2002
Survey on irradiated foods – herbs and spices, dietary supplements and prawns and shrimps Jun 2002
Authenticity of corn (Maize) oil May 2002
Meat content, added water and hydrolysed protein in catering chicken breasts Dec 2001
Added water in chicken and chicken parts Oct 2000
Misdescription of tuna species in tuna products Apr 2000

A full list of surveys which have been carried out by the Food Standards Agency in past years is available on the FSA website. 

Knowledge Transfer

The methods developed to detect food misdescription are made available to local authorities and official food control laboratories for use in enforcing food standards and labelling legislation.  This is done by the production of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the transfer of methods onto suitable platforms for use by enforcement officials, training courses, publications, challenge exercises and support for method accreditation, EU-wide dissemination activities and media updates. 

The aim of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) documents is to facilitate the harmonisation of methods and promote comparability of practices and quality control of information obtained by the laboratories using them.   The methods described in the Authenticity SOPs can be adopted by relevant bodies such as Official Food and Feed Control Laboratories (OCLs) to assist in enforcement of legislation relating to food labelling.

Completed analytical protocols for methods developed in projects are approved by The Additives and Authenticity Working Group (AAMWG). The AAMWG evaluates the data supporting the methods, and the validity of the approach, to ensure the SOPs are robust and ‘fit for purpose’. SOPs are available upon request.

Food Authenticity Programme Review and Strategy

The programme was recently subject to a comprehensive review which resulted in the development of a revised programme strategy. 

Food Authenticity Steering Groups

The Authenticity and Additives Methodology Working Group

The Authenticity Steering Group (ASG) was established in June 2010.   (Further information will be available at a later date). 


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Page published: 3 October 2010

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