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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report on Desinewed Meat (Government Response)

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2012

We have today laid before Parliament the Government’s response (Cm 8462) to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report on Desinewed Meat, which was published on 24 July 2012.

On 28 March 2012, the European Commission issued demands, in accordance with its interpretation of European Union (EU) food law, that the production of desinewed meat from ruminant bones in the UK should cease. Desinewed meat produced from non-ruminant bones should be categorised and labelled as mechanically separated meat (MSM), which has significantly less commercial value and cannot count towards the meat content of products in which it is used.

In response to these demands, which required the UK to take action within five working days, the UK Government decided to implement a moratorium to achieve compliance with the Commission’s interpretation of EU food law. The alternative was to face the prospect of emergency safeguard measures which would have prohibited UK-produced meat preparations, meat products, minced meat and MSM from being placed on EU and domestic markets. This would have had significant negative economic and reputational impact on the UK meat industry and supply chain.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the moratorium. The report of this inquiry was published on 24 July 2012, providing a detailed assessment of the chain of events and the implications of the Commission’s decision.

The Government welcome the Committee’s report and its recommendations. Some of the issues that have been raised by the Committee are specific to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) while others are wider in scope. The Food Standards Agency has liaised closely with the Department of Health, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and counterparts in the devolved countries in considering the Committee’s recommendations and developing the overall response.

The Committee rightly highlights the need to continue to press the Commission on this matter. The Food Standards Agency has been working and will continue to work closely with other Government Departments and with industry to press for the Commission to ensure a level playing field across the European market. The European Food Safety Authority has been mandated to provide an opinion on MSM which is due at the end of March 2013 and, in light of this, the FSA will push for discussions with the Commission and member states to be re-opened with a view to developing a more proportionate and risk-based approach to the production of desinewed meat and MSM.

Today’s publication is in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.