EU bans production of desinewed meat

The European Commission has asked the UK to stop producing ‘desinewed meat’ (DSM), a product made using a low pressure technique to separate meat from bones, despite recognising that it does not present safety issues.

As of 28 April, British processors will have to cease production of DSM from ruminant bones. They will still be able to use the technique for poultry and pigs, but will have to label it ‘mechanically separated meat’. The move has been condemned by the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA), which said it would involve job losses in the affected businesses, and bring estimated losses of £200m for the food industry.

BMPA director Stephen Rossides told Meat Trades Journal: “DSM is an entirely different product from MSM. Mechanically separated meat (MSM) is harvested from high-pressure application machinery, so the structure of the meat is broken down. Desinewed meat is obtained using low pressure to extract the meat from the bones, so you are left with something like minced meat, and it retains its fibre structure.

“The Commission includes everything in the MSM definition, but many other member states think there should be another definition for DSM, and there’s a working group in Brussels looking at all this, because even the Commission recognises that there is no safety issue. It just jumped on the UK like a ton of bricks and asked us to change the legislation without giving us time to breathe, but why it is being so ferocious is a mystery.”

The BMPA asked the UK government to continue to defend the country’s interpretation of the legislation, and to give the industry more time to adjust to any changes “to minimise market disruption and financial damage”.

“This is a criminal waste of a valuable product at a time of a shortage of proteins, and when we are being urged to reduce food wastage. Common sense has gone out of the window,” added Rossides

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) agreed to impose the moratorium, as the Commission threatened to ban UK exports of meat products if it did not comply, but reasserted the safety of the product, adding that “the European Commission has informed [it that] they do not consider this to be an identified public health concern”.

However, both the FSA and the BMPA said they did not believe the Commission’s decision was related to the ‘pink slime’ scandal in the US, where a consumer campaign has led many major retailers to stop buying lean finely textured beef (LFTB), a product obtained using high-pressure machinery and added to minced beef.

An FSA spokesperson said: “This issue has nothing to do with recent reports in the media about ‘pink slime’, a beef-based food additive used in the US as a filler in minced beef. This product is not permitted in the EU and is not obtained by the same processes as MSM or DSM.”

Rossides added that DSM has been an issue for a while in the EU, as the Commission has become aware that different member states make different interpretations of the legislation.

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