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Volume 172: debated on Tuesday 15 May 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his Department is taking to preserve the British sausage; and if he will make a statement.

The Commission's proposals would require minced meat and sausages to be prepared from fresh, chilled meat within six days of slaughter. This would prevent the use of meat from carcases which have been matured to enhance flavour and tenderness. The use of some fit meat, including shin and skirt, would be prohibited. Chilled minced meat and sausages could not be made from frozen meat and would be required to be chilled to 2°C within an hour of preparation, leading to freeze damage. Only butchers producing minced meat and sausages on their premises for direct sale to customers would be exempt from these requirements.There are no sound hygiene reasons for these restrictions, which would increase costs and reduce consumer choice.We are negotiating hard in Brussels to secure the removal of these restrictions from the Commission's proposals. The industry are also making representation on their own behalf. Further, in co-operation with the industry, we shall be arranging to publicise the proposals in the hope that this will stimulate United Kingdom consumers to write to Members of the European Parliament, and to the Commission, protesting about the restrictions which would be put on their freedom of choice.