The report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee found “serious flaws” in the government’s response to the ban on UK desinewed meat imposed by Brussels.
They called on the UK government to make “every possible effort” to reverse the EC’s decision, which will have serious impacts on the UK’s food industry and for consumers.
“Our producers have been badly let down by both the EC and the UK government,” said Anne McIntosh MP, EFRA committee chair. “The Commission’s actions are irrational and wrong. The government was caught unawares and has so far failed to protect UK producers.”
The report has been warmly welcomed by poultry processors.
£100M cost to poultry industry
The British Poultry Council (BPC) claimed the misguided decision by the EC to reclassify this product threatened to cost British poultry companies up to £100M.
BPC chairman John Reed said: “This situation shows that poultry production is vulnerable to knee-jerk reactions made by the EC, and we need a strong UK government presence to defend British businesses from this sort of ill-timed decision. I hope this report serves to highlight to government the pressing need to defend British companies and the livelihoods that depend on them.”
He added: “It’s good that the EFRA Select Committee has shone a light on this issue. Now we have to ensure that all the other European countries are being treated the same way as the UK, otherwise British companies are going to lose out once again.”
In April the EC mandated that the UK impose a moratorium on the production of desinewed meat (DSM) from cows and sheep from the end of April. The ruling also said DSM produced from pigs and poultry had to be reclassified as mechanically separated meat (MSM) from May 26.
Desinewed meat is safe
The Food Standards Agency and EC recognise that there are no food safety risks associated with the use of low-pressure DSM technique. As a result, McIntosh said: “The Commission’s decision to outlaw this meat without producing any scientific evidence to suggest that it is a risk to public health was totally disproportionate.”
The report highlights the impact that the EC’s decision has had on the UK meat industry. One producer of desinewed meat, Newby Foods, has been forced to make almost half of its workforce redundant, EFRA reported. Consumers are also expected to pay a price as desinewed meat, traditionally used in value ranges, is replaced by more expensive cuts of meat, it added.
The Committee’s inquiry found that although similar processes are used elsewhere in the EU, only the UK has been forced into a ban after being threatened with “safeguarding measures” by the EC.
“We are now in the absurd situation where we could see this meat imported from elsewhere in the EU to take the place of domestically produced meat,” added McIntosh.