A report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has found "serious flaws" in the Government's response to the ban on UK 'desinewed' meat imposed by Brussels.
MPs have called on the UK Government to make “every possible effort” to reverse the Commission’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 European Commission and the UK Government. The Commission’s actions are irrational and wrong. The Government was caught unawares and has so far failed to protect UK producers” said Anne McIntosh MP, EFRA Committee Chair.
The European Commission demanded in March that desinewed meat, which closely resembles minced meat and is used in many processed meat products, must be classified as “mechanically separated meat.” Under EU rules, this meant that it could no longer be obtained from the bones of cattle, sheep and goats.
The UK Government has made clear that there are no food safety risks associated with the use of desinewed meat. “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,” added McIntosh.
The report high lights the impact that the Commission’s decision has had on the UK meat industry. One producer of desinewed meat, Newby Foods Ltd, has been forced to make almost half of its workforce redundant. Consumers are also expected to pay a price as desinewed meat, traditionally used in value ranges, is replaced by more expensive cuts of meat.
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 Commission.
“The Commission plans to inspect other Member States later this year but in the meantime UK producers remain the only ones forced to reclassify this meat in the face of threats from the Commission. The Government failed to prevent the moratorium from being introduced. Now it must put pressure on the Commission to bring forward visits to other Member States so that there is a level playing field for our producers.”
“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.
MPs conclude that it is unacceptable that the UK Government cannot offer any reassurance that such an event would not happen again. The Committee calls on the Food Standards Agency to improve its communication with the rest of Whitehall.
The Committee also criticises the European Commission for failing to provide oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, saying that it shows a “worrying disregard for democratic accountability.”