Update into research on smokies

A contract has been awarded to the Central Science Laboratory for a study that will investigate skin-on sheep meat, known as smokies.

The study will investigate whether residues from medicines used during the sheep's lifecycle are present in sheep skin, potentially posing a risk to the consumer.

The Food Standards Agency in September 2007, advised that it was proposing the new research and the research was anticipated to start this April but was brought forward to February. It plans to finish by April 2009.

The new work will build on published research commissioned by the FSA, which found that under controlled conditions, skin-on-sheep carcasses could be produced hygienically, as reported in the journal Meat Science.

The effectiveness of current withdrawal periods of veterinary medicines will be a key element of the new research.

Withdrawal periods ensures that any medicine residues in meat from animals are below a safe limit to protect the consumer.

The new research will aim to determine whether certain medicines, including those that control external parasites and flies in sheep and concentrate in the skin and skin fat, could pose a risk to consumers.

Sheep feet with the skin on that have been scolded and have their hair removed are legally available for consumption.

These items will be used as testing items in the new study.

This research will determine how skin-on carcasses can be produced hygienically and safely.

In the short term there is no prospect of the law being changed to allow approved slaughter-houses to produce skin on sheep.

The production of smokies still remains illegal in the UK but the FSA may consider approaching the European Commission if new facts come to light.

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