The UK government should make “every possible effort” to persuade the European Commission (EC) to reverse its decision on desinewed meat (DSM), according to an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) report.
The report, which followed an enquiry by MPs into the circumstances surrounding the DSM moratorium, argued that the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) failure to anticipate the EC’s decision limited the options open to the UK government.
In April 2012, the UK Food Standards Agnecy (FSA) published a moratorium on DSM, which is manufactured using a low pressure technique to remove meat from bones. Under the ruling, cattle, sheep or goat-produced DSM may no longer made in the UK.
It may still be produced using poultry and pig bones, but it must be specifically labelled as Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM).
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has welcomed the EFRA report, adding that its findings make the EC action “all the more perplexing.”
“Our examination of the chain of events which led to the moratorium has highlighted the heavy-handed and disproportionate nature of the Commission’s action but has also exposed serious flaws in the handling of this issue by the FSA, DEFRA, and the Department of Health. It is, of course, our producers who are paying the price for these mistakes,” said the EFRA report.
The EC decision to request a moratorium at such short notice also resulted in “devastating consequences” for British meat producers, the report added.
Following the initial announcement in April 2012, the BMPA estimated that the cost of the ruling to the UK meat industry could hit £200m.
“Whilst the Commission’s actions may already have irreparably damaged parts of the British meat industry, the Government should make every possible effort to persuade the Commission to reverse its decision,” said the EFRA report.
“Should the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority support the UK’s position on desinewed meat the Government should seriously consider taking legal action against the Commission unless the moratorium is immediately lifted.”
Food safety risk
The report has also questioned the EC’s decision in the absence of any evidence that suggests DSM represents a food safety risk.
“The Commission’s demand for a moratorium in the absence of any evidence that desinewed meat presents a risk to health will lead to the unnecessary waste of thousands of tonnes of meat,” the report added.
The BMPA, which represents meat processors in the UK, reiterated the report’s finding.
“The report reaffirms that there are no food safety concerns around the use of desinewed meat, which makes the European Commission’s disproportionate and punitive threats and actions against the UK all the more perplexing,” said BMPA director Stephen Rossides.
“The Committee’s report is spot on both in identifying the key issues surrounding the moratorium debacle, and in its recommendations about the lessons to be learned and the steps that need to be taken,” he added.