We’ve asked around, and to the average kebab lover, a doner kebab is the term used to describe the rotisserie cooked kebab, typically sold in their local takeaway or kebab shop.
Indeed, the origin of the name comes from the Turkish döner kebap, from döner ‘rotating’ and kebap ‘roast meat’.
So it seems that most people agree…..or do they…..
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a doner kebab as; ‘A Turkish dish consisting of spiced lamb, cooked on a spit and served in slices, typically with pitta bread.’
Note the specific use of ‘Lamb’ in this definition. This is agreed upon by the Food Standards Agency. In their ‘guide to the trading standards law, applying to take away premises 2015’, they stated:
‘A ‘Doner Kebab’ is a customary name and therefore should be applied to Doner Kebabs containing 100% sheep meat only. If you sell a Doner Kebab which contains meat other than just lamb or mutton, then the name on the menu should reflect this e.g. ‘Lamb, Beef & Chicken Kebab.’
We first encountered this issue back in 2014, when our local Environmental Health and Food Safety officer advised us of that: ‘If you are using the word “DONER” on your labels you must be aware that some of the general public expect only Lamb or Mutton in the Kebab. My advice to you would be to only call the kebab a Doner if it contains only Lamb or/and Mutton.’ He explained that this was only his ‘advice’, but urged us to consider the advice from the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), which says: ”Some people state that Doner Kebab meat may be lamb, mutton, beef, goat, or chicken. However, there is also the perception that doner kebabs should only contain either only lamb or mutton.”
Feedback from Councils to LACORS suggests that this understanding can vary on a regional basis. In fact Leicestershire County Council successfully prosecuted a kebab producer for the supply of doner kebab meat which was not of the substance demanded by the unqualified term ‘doner kebab’, in that it contained meat of a species other than sheep, namely beef and poultry.
While the name doner kebab can be applied to a kebab containing any meat species, LACORS would recommend that best practice is to identify the meat species of the kebab if it is not just a lamb kebab. Terms such as ‘beef and lamb doner kebab’ or ‘mixed meat doner kebab’ could be used.
So it seems that a doner kebab that is not only Lamb can be called a doner kebab, unless you happen to trade in an area where the local trading standards agency disagrees.
As much as our view may differ from that of the FSA, as a kebab manufacturer that distributes nation wide, we came to the conclusion that, on balance it is safer not to label our mixed meat kebab products as doner. When we made the switch in 2014, we were concerned that the omission of the word may be detrimental to sales, a fear that turned out to be unfounded, not least because end customer – the consumer – never actually sees the label and retailers are happy as long that they receive the same product that they’re used to.
We do offer a true doner – our blue label doner kebab, which contains only lamb. This delicious doner has proved to be very popular and we can rest easy in the knowledge that regional authorities are satisfied….that is until the definition changes again.