FSA red stripe too 'confusing'
Published:  21 April, 2006

IDENTIFYING CARCASES of 24-30 month cattle with a red stripe on a label is unnecessary and confusing for meat processors.

This was the cry from Norman Bagley, policy advisor for the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS).

Bagley said there were several reasons why the industry was against the proposal from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

There were practical reasons, such as the time it would take processors to operate such a system, and the cost of using it, but he said the main objection to the system was that there was no reason for introducing it. He said this was because 24-30 month cattle were already identifiable to butchers with the beef labelling system.

However, a spokeswoman for the FSA said the red stripe was a necessary tool devised to make it even easier for butchers at approved butcher's shops to identify carcases from 24-30 month old cattle which needed to have the vertebral column removed. It also helped differentiate between carcases requiring different action (ie those marked with blue or plain label).

Bagley said highlighting carcases from 24-30 month cattle with a red stripe on the label was an example of bureaucracy and a total waste of money. He said: "If you have got a computerised labelling printer in a processing plant how will you be able to process that? Operators will have to stop the line, take out the blue label roll put in another roll for the red label and start it again. In the end you will have to triple batch things, for which there is no need.

"We don't think the FSA board intended to burden the processors - they thought it would simplify things, but it doesn't. There is no benefit at all to public health or traceability... The plant operators have to have a traceability system in place in any case - there is no justification for it (the red label) - it is just work for work's sake."

It is understood that the beef export ban is likely to be lifted on 3rd May and in order to prepare for the new regulations butchers will receive an application form in the guidance pack. Only after completing the form will they become licensed to remove the vertebral column in cattle aged 24-30 months in their butcher's shop.

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