FSA to appeal against Newby Foods ruling

Newby Foods is bracing itself for a Food Standards Agency (FSA) appeal against the high court ruling exempting it from UK restrictions on desinewed meat (DSM) and mechanically separated meat (MSM). 

Senior dispute resolution lawyer Tim Russ, of Roythorne’s solicitors, who is representing Newby Foods, told Meat Trades Journal: “The FSA was given permission on 3 May and I do know they are going to appeal.

“The judge ruled on the facts that Newby Foods’ product is meat. The FSA has stated the ruling applies just to Newby Foods, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it could apply to other companies.

“There are two ways to appeal: you could argue that the judge got it wrong or you could challenge the ruling’s application to the whole meat industry. We are stuck in a position where we are going to have many more months of limbo for Newby Foods.”

The FSA stated that it had “confirmed that the High Court was of the view that the FSA had grounds for appeal and granted it permission to do so”. It added: “The FSA is now considering the next steps in the process.”

The agency has until 24 May to submit an appeal application.

In 2012, the agency banned DSM from cows, sheep and goats in the UK. It further required pig and poultry DSM to be labelled as MSM, distinct from other meat content. The decision followed pressure from the European Commission (EC), which claimed UK DSM production flouted EU single market legislation.

Manufacturers producing DSM at the time of the so-called moratorium represented only a small proportion of the total UK meat industry. However, the British Meat Processors Association claimed at the time that the move would cost the sector £200m in cancelled business as well as hundreds of jobs.

Newby Foods argued the process it used did not fall under the EC’s definition of DSM or MSM, so should not be subject to the FSA’s restrictions. Building on a European Court of Justice judgment in 2014, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled in favour of Newby Foods on 23 March this year in the High Court.

Newby Foods managing director Graham Bishop celebrated the decision at the time, saying: “We are delighted that, after four years of litigation, common sense has prevailed… We are trying to get the business back. It will happen.” Newby Foods’ turnover was more than halved as a result of the FSA’s moratorium, he added.

Bishop stressed the case hinged on the fact that the meat Newby Foods produced was no different from standard minced meat, as it consisted of intact muscle fibre removed from bones. It could therefore be included as total meat content on the labels of products such as sausage rolls, hot dogs or meat balls.

Such meat would otherwise either be binned or used for purposes such as rendering or gelatin production.

“The High Court said why should this raw material be relegated to something it shouldn’t be relegated to,” said Bishop. “The only mistake that meat has made has been to be on the wrong side of the knife during production.”

He called on the FSA to generate guidelines that would distinguish the company’s process from that of others producing lower-quality DSM or MSM. Once this guidance was in place, other companies would be able to derive revenue from a similar process, he argued.

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