Under the changes, producers and retailers will not be able to sell uncooked cured meat products, such as bacon, that contain more than 5% water without including added water in the name of the product. Currently, the ceiling for added water without labelling is 10%.
The Meat Products Regulations 2014 have been introduced to bring earlier rules from 2003 into line with the requirements in the EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIR), which comes into force on December 13 this year.
The Provision Trade Federation (PTF), which represents bacon producers, has strongly objected to the changes since they were introduced at a very late stage and without consultation. The PTF fears they will cause consumer confusion and damage sales of bacon in the UK.
Vast majority of bacon
The rule change will affect the vast majority of bacon, since 98% of bacon sold in the UK is made by the ‘cure-in-the bag’ method using brine, which is not viable at added water levels of 5% or less. Traditional immersion cured bacon is also expected to exceed the 5% limit and would therefore have to be re-labelled.
As a consequence, nearly all bacon, other than dry cured, sold in the UK will have an added water indication on the label which will prevent consumers from differentiating between products on the basis of this declaration. It will also be confusing to consumers who will assume that the product has changed when it has not, said the PTF. Furthermore, the 10% limit, which had acted as a deterrent to the over-watering of bacon, will be lost, it warned.
‘Door open to exceed 10% water’
“Because water is an essential part of the process for making most bacon, other than dry-cured, it is technologically impossible to produce bacon with less than 5% water,” said PTF director general Clare Cheney. “That means that virtually all bacon will have to be labelled ‘with added water’. With the old 10% ceiling, bacon producers made sure they stayed below it. Now there is no such incentive and the door is open to exceed 10%.”
Cheney added: “I expect that consumers will become used to the label which will not enable differentiation between one brand and another so consumer choice will be down to price and/or preference for a particular product when tasted. There will be no advantage for consumers.”
Meanwhile, don’t miss the Food Manufacture Group’s free, one-hour webinar exploring the implications of FIR for food and drink manufacturers first aired last month.