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British consumer watchdog to test for lamb meat substitution

(Reuters) - Britain's Foods Standards Agency (FSA) said it will begin a new round of tests on lamb takeaway meals from restaurants across the UK after the consumer watchdog found evidence of cheaper substitutes such as beef and chicken.

The FSA said local authorities were being asked to test 300 samples from restaurants providing takeaway meals and report their findings to the agency. The sampling will start at the beginning of May.

The agency said mislabeling of food could result in fines of up to 5,000 pounds ($8,400) and that businesses that are found to deliberately mislabel food could face prosecution.

An FSA review of local authority sampling data from July to December 2013 found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb. Other meat species identified included chicken and turkey. No samples were found to contain horse meat, it said.

A scandal broke around Europe in January last year when traces of horse were found in frozen burgers sold in Irish and British supermarkets.

($1 = 0.5955 British pounds)

(Reporting by Karen Rebelo in Bangalore; Editing by Ken Wills)