Speaking at the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) conference in London, the minister pledged his commitment to dealing with the issue of desinewed meat, saying that they would pursue the issue with the European Commission “as hard as we possibly can”.
He said: “We were astonished by the Commissions’s approach, the short notice of it and the fact that they seem to have taken the decision without any real regard to the market situation and what it will do to the market place.”
He said that the government understood the sensitivity of the ban on ruminant DSM but said that extending it to poultry and pork was a totally different matter and that this decision was completely out of proportion to any sense of risk.
“We will confront the Commission with the implications of what they are trying to do in terms of wasted materials, labelling costs and reformulations costs.
“I’ve no intention of dropping the issue, and although I’m not making promises over the outcomes, we’re determined to pursue it as hard as we possibly can and hope to make sure that common sense retains the upper hand.”
He said that this would include recognising the international implications of the ban across the rest of EU where the same practice is still continuing without the threat of being closed down.
He said that Food Standards Agency (FSA) chief executive Tim Smith, who had been due to speak at the conference, was in Brussels, arguing the case that DSM production was not a food safety issue and that a level playing field was not currently in operation across Europe.
Speaking in Smith’s place, Andrew Rhodes, director of operations at the FSA, said that the FSA had provided evidence to the Commission of DSM activities in other member states and acknowledged the BMPA and industry’s wider role, saying that it had been “invaluable” in bolstering the FSA’s case.
He said the FSA was committed to providing advice to DSM producers to help them achieve compliance and had already issued guidelines to clarify what they needed to do in order to comply with the new EU requirements.
He acknowledged the concern among processors about what fell inside and what outside the moratorium, and pointed out the major differences between the moratorium on ruminant and those on non-ruminant DSM. He clarified that, from 26 May, non-ruminant DSM production could continue, but would have to be produced and labelled in compliance with legislation relating to MSM.
He said: “It can still go into the food supply and, in addition, we will not require DSM in storage on 26 May to be treated as MSM further down the processing and marketing chain.”
He said that the FSA wanted to take a proportionate approach towards compliance and wanted to work with industry to reach full compliance as soon as practically possible, although he acknowledged that this would take some time.