Researchers for public broadcaster NDR's consumer show “Markt” on Tuesday found that smoked ham in particular was not likely contain a single cut of meat as advertised.
Packages read Nussschinken or Lachsschinken, which would lead shoppers to believe the meat slices come from pork thigh or rump.
But Goetz Hildebrandt, a leading food expert for Berlin's Free University, tested a myriad of packaged smoked ham and found that many had not been formed naturally.
“It is very clear to see here that at least two pieces, if not three, were used to put this piece together,” he said, examining a cold cut. “That means we're dealing with processed meat.”
Hildebrandt tested ham from well-known producers available in the supermarket such as Wiltmann, Berschneider, Gutfried and according to Markt, was suspicious that many were using an enzyme called transglutaminase – known as “meat glue” in the industry – to cobble bits together to resemble a single cut.
“The processing is not declared. That means consumers have been deceived,” he told NDR.
When Markt showed the scientist's results to food inspectors in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, they said the technology was new to them.
“We need to take a look at this. Just as with the consumers, monitoring this technology was previously unknown to us,” said Detlef Horn from his Krefeld office.
German law does not require food companies to indicate the use of transglutaminase, and Markt said those they spoke with deny having mislead consumers.