UK meat processors have opposed the EU labelling rules, which took effect in April 2013, arguing such meat should count towards products’ final meat content and therefore should not be labelled separately.
Singling it out on packaging would cut its commercial value, lead to it being used less frequently and increase food waste, proponents have argued. The latest verdict was delivered on a case concerning BMPA member Newby Foods that had the potential to reverse the situation.
It was originally brought in the UK courts, but crucial questions were subsequently referred to the European Court of Justice.
“This is a very disappointing ruling, and fails to recognise the technological advances that have enabled the ability to produce by low pressure mechanical means a product very similar to minced meat,” said BMPA director Stephen Rossides.
“The BMPA has consistently asserted that what was formerly known in the UK as ‘desinewed meat’ [DSM] is a quite different product from MSM, and is similar to minced meat.
“As such, this product should count towards the meat content of food products and should not have to be labelled.”
Rossides said the BMPA “will have to consider in more detail the implications of this ruling” and did not rule out appealing against the decision.
Two-year research project
A two-year EU-wide research project aiming to distinguish desinewed meat from MSM was announced earlier this month, involving nine partners, including Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) and food processing equipment supplier Marel.
The €1.25M (£995,000) EU Framework 7 project is intended to develop an objective method for classifying comminuted poultry meat through methods such as examining it under a microscope.
Since the current MSM labelling rules were introduced, the value of DSM has fallen from £1.58/kg to £0.8/kg, according to Kathy Groves, project manager for microscopy at LFR.
At an open day on food innovation held last month at LFR’s headquarters, Groves said: “A lot of politics is involved in this.
“There is a strong move to distinguish between low pressure MSM and high pressure MSM. Low pressure MSM [DSM] is closer to a minced meat preparation than MSM.”