UPDATE: The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has slammed media coverage of a UK watchdog report where it stated Irish food testers found a pizza containing 35 ingredients from 60 different countries while investigating the horsemeat scandal earlier this year.

A pizza containing 35 ingredients from five different continents was used as an example by the National Audit Office (NAO) in the UK to illustrate how difficult it was to verify the origins of the processed food eaten in the UK. The NAO claimed the FSAI tested such a pizza during its horsemeat investigations. This was subsequently reported in numerous British tabloid newspapers today.

According to a FSAI spokesperson, the example the independent watchdog was referring to “was a hypothetical scenario from a slideshow presentation”.

“We did not find that. That is totally incorrect,” she said. “The hypothesis example referred to by the NAO and in UK media reports today was an hypothesis that was used to highlight the complexity of food supply chain traceability…The media UK reports today on it are ludicrous and totally incorrect.”

According to a spokesman for the NAO, it stands by all findings in its report.

Meanwhile, the NAO report on food safety and authenticity in the processed meat supply chain, published today, found that “food fraud” was rife in the UK.

In the report prompted by the scandal over horsemeat in UK foods, the NAO said it had become even harder to determine what was actually in food because of the long, international supply chains.

“The January 2013 horsemeat incident has revealed a gap between what citizens expect of the controls over the authenticity of their food and the effectiveness of those controls in reality. The division of responsibilities for food safety and authenticity has created confusion. The British Government needs to remove this confusion, and improve its understanding of potential food fraud and how intelligence is brought together and shared,” said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office in the UK.

The response to the horsemeat scandal illustrated the “confusion” surrounding food policy in the UK government, she added.

According to the NAO, a 2010 re-organisation had blurred the division of responsibilities between the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency. In addition, the report also found UK authorities had not tested for possible horsemeat adulteration since 2003.

The full report is available here.

Among the highlights are:

There are 490,308 registered food businesses in England
£241m estimated spend in 2011-12 to protect consumers from food incidents
75 per cent of this spend related to local authorities in 2011-12 to enforce food law
Three Departments in England with responsibility for aspects of food policy
26 per cent fall in the number all local authority food samples tested since 2009-10
12 different national and European databases housing data on food intelligence
1,380 new reports of fraud recorded on the National Food Fraud database in 2012, up two-thirds since 2009

Image Shutterstock

This story was updated at 5.01pm.