A spokesman for Birmingham City Council could not confirm local press reports of seizures but did concede Trading Standards and environmental health officers, supported by West Midlands Police, had visited a number of wholesale halal meat traders last month.
“There is a requirement under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 that products including food are not mis-described,” he told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “Often this may be a genuine mistake, sometimes it is by intent and sometimes the matter is so severe that it is considered fraud.
“Birmingham officers have been closely watching recent meat transactions within the city and, as a result of this, conducted a number of visits to wholesale halal meat traders in the last month.”
The spokesman said the “visits” were conducted to ensure compliance with legal requirements, to ensure that all meat is traceable and that consumers are not misled in any way about the products they are buying.
He also stressed that the visits to specific wholesale premises did not mean consumers should not purchase meat from these businesses. “The action by Birmingham City Council is part of a wider exercise to ensure all communities within Birmingham are supplied with food that is properly labelled and marketed, so that it meets their requirements.”
The spokesman acknowledged the debate about whether animals used to produce Halal meat should be stunned or not. Currently halal meat is legally produced using either method.
“When considering whether meat is Halal, officers carry out appropriate checks to satisfy themselves that the claim is justified. This would include reviewing labels, supplier details, markings and any certification or approval.
“Where a non-stun claim was made, officers would also seek clarification on that part of the claim. Officers do not make a judgement about the use of stunning or otherwise, this is a matter of choice and interpretation for the certification bodies, traders and consumers.”
The activity in Birmingham comes as the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is preparing for a consultation, which would include consideration of whether stunning should be a requirement.
A DEFRA spokeswoman said: “It is due to be happening fairly soon but a few things need to be tied up and a precise date has not yet been set.”
The consultation will look at the current welfare at slaughter and killing regulations and consider whether they need to be updated and how any changes and might be implemented.
Referring to halal practices, she said: “That is just one element of the welfare at slaughter and killing regulations. They are pretty broad and extensive and the consultation is looking at all those regulations.”
Food and farming minister Jim Paice announced the halal consultation in June. To read more, click here.