Great British meal of the future - water, gravy and two veg

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The Independent Online
Meat-free pork sausages and chunks of ham whose main ingredient is added water could become legal next January.

Proposals by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) aimed at cutting red tape have enraged both consumer groups and the meat industry.

"It could mean the legalised debasement of many products that are a part of the daily diet, especially for people on a low income," David Walker, chief trading standards officer at Shropshire County Council, said. He said the proposals, in which meat products would have no legal minimum meat content, and water would simply be listed in the ingredients, are "a virtual licence to print money" for unscrupulous food manufacturers.

The industry is also angry. "We are not happy with [the plans] because they don't offer protection from pressure to reduce the meat in meat products," Elizabeth Sunley, assistant director of the British Meat Manufacturers' Association, said. "Pork sausages have to have 65 per cent meat now ... We don't feel change would be helpful." The BMMA has submitted a reply to Maff opposing the changes, to be brought in next January.

The suggestions were contained in a paper, Review of the Meat Products and Spreadable Fish Product Regulations 1984, as part of the 1993 initiative to cut red tape in government, launched by Michael Heseltine, then president of the Board of Trade.

The regulations were introduced following an outcry over the use of machines to inject water into meat. In 1984, legislation forced companies to announce on the front of packaging what percentage of water had been added. But under the new rules, that would not be necessary.