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Sandwich makers slam labelling proposals

By Rick Pendrous , 03-Sep-2007

Sandwich makers believe they are being unfairly singled out for attention under new labelling proposals for meat sandwiches, which will see ‘formed’ and ‘reformed’ meat fillings highlighted for the first time.

The Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Affairs (Lacors) hopes to issue new guidance on the labelling of sandwiches early next year following a consultation period, which ends next month. The guidance will cover general labelling requirements, names of products and ingredients, ingredients lists, claims, allergen information and date marking.

The guidance has been in preparation for a number of years, with proposals last year being met with howls of disapproval from The British Sandwich Association (BSA), which objected to the sandwich making sector being “used as a lever to get at the meat industry”. BSA director Jim Winship still believes that sandwich makers are being unfairly targeted, when the rules should apply equally across the food industry.

Winship said: “There is a section in [the guidance] in which they talk about food names, meat and ingredients. They are specifying that if products which contain things such as reformed ham or added water in excess of 5% or added ingredients from any other species, that has to be in the product’s title and we can’t accept that. If they are going to do that, then they need to change the meat regulations and it is not something for the sandwich industry to do.”

He added: “I can’t see that being acceptable to anyone [within the BSA membership]. My argument is not that shouldn’t necessarily be on the front of pack. But if it is going to be on the front of a pack then it has to be on the front of every other meat product pack that contains other species, not just sandwiches. Why should the sandwich industry be expected to apply rules that don’t apply generally in the meat industry at the moment? [Lacors] are trying to use us as a back door to get at the meat industry.”

Under the latest draft labelling proposals, issued for consultation by Lacors, formed meat is defined as ‘rearranging of muscles from more than one leg (in the case of ham) to form a product having the appearance of a cut, joint, slice or portion of meat’. Reformed means ‘the tumbling and massaging and re-arrangement of individual muscles with the addition of non-meat constituents’

Some stakeholders have suggested that the proposed definition of ‘reformed’ was not in line with guidance from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA). However, BMPA director Stuart Roberts claimed this was “more a matter of words than substance”. But he added: “There is an issue with labelling across the board in that it has to be understood by consumers.”

Greencore, one of the country’s leading sandwich makers, said: “Some particularly contentious issues in the previous proposals appear to have been left out of the updated guidelines.” However, there are issues that remain in respect of methods of processing, where Greencore will be making further representations.