FOOD ALERT: Ham and cheese pizzas from Derbyshire takeaways fail to contain ham or cheese

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Two thirds of takeaway ham and cheese pizzas failed to contain ham or cheese, a probe by Derbyshire trading standards officers has revealed.

Between January and March this year, Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards team visited 15 takeaways across the county and took away samples of pizzas containing ham and cheese for testing.

As well as checking the cheese and ham for substitution, officers also analysed salt levels.

Of the samples tested:

• Eight were found to contain a mixture of cheese and cheese substitute (where the dairy milk is replaced with vegetable fat) instead of 100 per cent cheese

• Five contained turkey ham in place of ham

• One pizza contained salt higher than the recommended amount

The council said it cannot name the takeaways. A spokesman for the authority said: “It’s our policy based on legal advice that we don’t reveal the identity of the businesses unless they are being prosecuted.”

Officers are also investigating a supplier who misled a business by claiming they were selling real cheese when further tests revealed it was a mixture of cheese and cheese substitute.

The authority is now issuing reminders to Derbyshire businesses warning them that they could face prosecution if they do not describe food correctly or properly label it for sale.

Councillor Dave Allen, the council’s cabinet member for health and communities, said: “It’s important that we keep consumers safe from any misleading or false information when it comes to what’s in their food.

“Our trading standards officers regularly take samples from food businesses and as well as having a duty to protect consumers from falsely described food they also have a duty to protect legitimate traders.

“Mislabelling food and ingredients can be very dangerous – especially for people with allergies to certain products – and we will not shy away from taking formal action against businesses that deliberately break the law.”

Following strict new European food regulations, the council’s trading standards team has seen a rise in the number of businesses seeking advice – soaring from 93 enquiries in 2013/14 to 155 over the past year.

Consumers with concerns about falsely described food can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.

People who want support and advice about food labelling and the new regulations should visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/tradingstandards