VC age limit changes moved back to May

Meat processors have written to the Food Standards Agency to express their dismay at learning the new Vertebral Column rules have been moved back to May 2008.

In the letter the British Meat Processors Association, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association and Association of Independent Meat Suppliers asked the FSA what its plans were to seek an earlier implementation.

The vertebral column rules were changed in May 2006, with the age limit for bone-in-beef brought from 30 months down to 24 months as a condition of opening the UK export markets.

"This change caused great problems for the industry and continues to do so to this day. In the run up to Christmas a number of members are unable to fulfil orders because of the demand for under 24 month beef," the letter to the FSA said.

The trade bodies said while they welcomed the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) agreement to raise the limit from 24 months to 30 months, it must be remembered that this only returns the UK to the situation it was in prior to May 2006.

They go on to say in the letter that they were also pleased that the FSA consultation scrutiny process had been shortened from the normal three months to ensure the decision could be implemented as soon as possible.

But now the meat processors say they are very concerned to learn that raising of bone-in-beef age to 30 months is unlikely to happen until May 2008 at the earliest. "Every day that passes is adding a significant burden to the UK meat industry with no counter balancing benefit being delivered to the UK consumers."

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