All pork and poultry products previously labelled as DSM must, from May 26, be labelled as mechanically separated meat (MSM). Many industry specialists fear customers will shun food products that carry DSM on the label.
Paice, secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),told the British Meat Processors Association’s (BMPA’s) conference yesterday (May 24) government was “astonished by the [European] Commission’s approach and the short notice" it had allowed for the changes to be made.
Sense of risk
While the government could “understand the sensitivities” of the rule changes governing ruminant DSM, extending them to pork and poultry was “completely out of proportion to any sense of risk”.
Paice promised: “We will keep up the pressure on the Commission to take into account the cost of complying with the rule changes.” Those costs would include: wasted materials, labelling costs and reformulation charges, he added.
The cost of complying with the rule changes has been estimated at about £200M.
Andrew Rhodes, director of operations at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), agreed “DSM was not a food safety issue”.
Rhodes was speaking in place of FSA chief executive Tim Smith who had travelled to Brussels to discuss the DSM rule.
The FSA appreciated processors’ concerns about what fell within and outside the scope of the DSM moratorium, he said. “We note compliance is not a straightforward matter,” he added.
Rhodes advised anyone who was unsure about whether his or her business was covered by the moratorium to contact the local veterinary health officer or environmental health officer.
Europe was not “operating on a level playing field [on DSM] across Europe”, said Rhodes.
British meat processors
FoodManufacture.co.uk reported yesterday that the DSM rule could disadvantage British meat processors compared with their EU counterparts.
Since DSM cannot be detected in processed meat products, imports from other countries that continue to use it without relabelling it as MSM could go undetected – giving them a significant commercial advantage.
Andrew Simpson, new BMPA president, said the DSM issue had “blown up at very short notice and was a very difficult problem to address, which was of deep concern”.
Simpson welcomed the decision of the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to investigate the topic last week. "The implications of changing long-established practices were enormous,” he said.
Richard Cullen, consumer insight manager for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, confirmed that the depressed economic situation continued to depress meat sales. He noted that “eating in is the new eating out” as consumers tried to save money. They were also trading down from the higher-priced meat cuts to the cheaper options.
The trend towards convenience meals was reflected in the time taken to prepare main meals. The average time to prepare and cook a main meal had fallen from 60 minutes in 1980 to 34 minutes this year, he said.
Meanwhile, watch out for more reports from the BMPA conference next week. In an exclusive podcast, Neil Griffiths, chief executive of food law specialist SVA, will explain the latest regulatory developments on DSM.
Also, we will report Paice’s personal views on religious slaughter and how the government plans to address the controversial topic.