Consultation on Meat Products Regulation nears end

Butchers, meat processors, and manufacturers have only two days left to submit their views as part of the government’s consultation on changes to the Meat Products Regulation.

As part of the new Food Information Regulations, which come into force on 13 December 2014, the Meat Products Regulation 2014 (MPR 2014) will supersede the previous 2003 (MPR 2003) regulations.

The consultation was launched in England on 23 January 2014 and responses are required by midday on Thursday 6 March. Similar consultations were launched in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The regulation covers Food Business Operators (FBOs) selling meat products in the UK, to the public or mass caterers – in particular uncooked meat products, and products such as burgers, meat pies and puddings, that are made in the UK.

The aim of the new regulations is to retain the important consumer protections offered by the MPR 2003 while bringing the regulations into line with European legislation.

The new regulations include a number of "significant changes". For example, "producers and retailers will not be able to sell uncooked cured meat products with the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcase of meat that contain more than 5% water without including ‘added water’ in the name of the product". The current percentage is 10% for uncooked cured meats.

Other changes include the requirement to label added proteins of a different animal origin in the name of the food – for example, beef meatballs with added pork protein.

The regulations also propose the retention of national ‘reserved descriptions’ for products such as burgers, pasties and sausage rolls, which set out minimum meat contents for the products.

It also prohibits the use of certain parts of an animal carcase, such as intestine (except as sausage skin), brains and feet, in uncooked meat products produced in the UK.

Clare Cheney, director general at the Provision Trade Federation, which covers the bacon industry said that virtually all producers will have to change their labels to state the products have added water, as technically it is unfeasible to reduce the water content below 5% except in the case of dry cured bacon.

"Defra is in the process of producing some guidelines for this labelling, although at the moment it is unclear where the wording regarding water content will need to go," said Cheney.

She added there would be obvious cost implications involved with producers needing to change their labels, but did not think the wording would put consumers off buying bacon, despite the fact it does not sound very nice.

Stephen Rossides, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said at the time of the consultation launch: "The UK has some specific national provisions that ensure the quality and integrity of meat products in this country. The BMPA is very keen to retain these, and we urge individual companies to participate in this consultation exercise."

View the documents here

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