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UK Attacks Commission over Desinewed Meat

22 October 2012

UK - The British Government has hit out at the European Commission over its handling of the moratorium on the use of desinewed meat.

The British government said that the European Commission's decision to request a moratorium at extremely short notice has had devastating consequences for British producers.

And it added that it is extremely disappointing that the Commission was unable, or unwilling, to provide oral evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee that launched and inquiry into the issues surrounding the use of desinewed meat.

DSM was produced using a low pressure technique to remove meat from animal bones. The product closely resembled minced meat.

In March 2012, following an audit mission to the UK, the European Commission demanded that UK production of DSM from cattle, sheep and goats (ruminants) bones should cease and that DSM produced from pork and poultry (non ruminant) bones should be categorised and labelled as mechanically separated meat (MSM).

The European Commission’s view was that DSM does not comply with European Union single market legislation.

If the UK did not comply with the Commission’s demands, it risked an EU-wide ban on certain UK meat products, including minced meat and MSM.

This would have had a significant negative impact on the UK meat industry, both in terms of cost and reputation the British government said.

In response, the UK Government introduced a moratorium on the production and labelling of DSM. Production of DSM from ruminant bones ended at the end of April 2012 and DSM from non-ruminant bones was relabelled as MSM from the end of May 2012.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the moratorium and published its report on 24 July 2012.

The British government's response to the report, published last week said that the Commission's failure to justify its actions and fulfil its duty to provide oral evidence to the National Parliament of a Member State demonstrated a worrying disregard for democratic accountability.

The Government agreed with the view of the Committee that the European Commission decision has had an impact on the British industry.

However, as a result of further discussions between the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Commission to clarify the scope of the moratorium, indications are that the impact has been significantly reduced, the government said.

"We particularly regret that the Commission’s decision to request action on the part of the UK to comply with its interpretation of the EU legislation within five working days, under threat of safeguard measures, was taken by the Commission at a time when productive discussions on the definition of mechanically separated meat (MSM) were ongoing between the Commission and Member States," the government statement said.

"It should be noted that the Commission’s request was for the UK to comply with their interpretation of European legislation, which applies to all Member States, not to implement a moratorium. The Government decided to meet the Commission’s request by implementing a moratorium.

"This terminology was used to signal that the UK did not agree with the Commission’s interpretation of the legislation and that we regard the position we have been forced into as being temporary and subject to further policy discussion by the Commission and Member States."

At the time of the publication of the EFRA report, Stephen Rossides, Director of the British Meat Manufacturers' Association, said: "The report reaffirms that there are no food safety concerns around the use of desinewed meat, which makes the European Commission's disproportionate and punitive threats and actions against the UK all the more perplexing. We share the Committee's irritation and concern that the Commission did not see fit to take up the Committee's offer to give oral evidence to the inquiry."

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