Ban on British meat product ban linked to horsemeat scandal

 

A sudden clampdown on a British abattoir product that previously filled cut-price burgers and pies may be largely responsible for the horse meat scandal, it was claimed today.

Suppliers were forced to seek cheap alternatives abroad when European regulators refused to recognise the product, known as de-sinewed meat or DSM.

The ruling came as a bombshell because it meant beef products containing DSM could no longer be sold.

Just two days notice was given before the change occurred in April last year.

Expensive "real" meat from British sources - in the form of fine mince - was not an option because of pressure from retailers to keep prices down, according to a leading food consultant and former member of the Food Standards Authority.

The only alternative was to seek out new sources of continental meat that were cheap enough to satisfy the supermarkets.

Dr Mark Woolfe, who was in charge of food authenticity at the FSA until 2009, said: "It was very, very badly done, I thought.

"I think there was an obvious risk. If you take a large chunk of raw material out of the market people have got to find alternative supplies.

"In principle there shouldn't be anything wrong with going to Europe because the same laws cover the whole of the EU. But in practice the longer and more complex the food chain, the more difficult it is to control. I think that's something we've learned the hard way quite recently."

Speaking at a news briefing in London, Dr Woolfe said he thought the EC ruling was a major factor behind the appearance of horsemeat in beef products.

Prior to the decision, thousands of tonnes of DSM had been used by the UK meat processing industry each year, he added.

He suggested that lamb products might also be at risk of contamination since many of them had also previously contained the material.

DSM was introduced in around 2000 as a cheap and plentiful filler for meat products.

It is produced by scraping meat residue off carcasses and then removing the sinews and bone fragments.

But European Commission inspectors ruled that to comply with EU law, DSM had to be reclassified as mechanically separated meat (MSM).

This is an even more basic product made by forcing residues through a sieve under pressure. The result is a material that resembles pink toothpaste.

Under British labelling regulations, MSM cannot be described as beef, lamb or any other kind of meat. Products made with the material must clearly be labelled as containing MSM. In addition, there are rules about minimum level of meat content in meat products.

As a result it was no longer possible to sell products largely composed of de-sinewed meat.

Dr Woolfe criticised supermarket chains for putting pressure on suppliers and not questioning the source of the cheap ingredients replacing DSM.

"Retailers seemed to be very unconcerned about this change at the time from what I can gather," he said.

"I think they should have questioned, if these materials were not going to be used, what (new) raw materials are going to be used. Maybe they should have been a little bit more vigilant."

He added: "Lets face it, on value products they squeeze the suppliers. They give them very low margins.

"They weren't prepared to give more money when this thing occurred so they forced suppliers to look for alternative supplies of meat to DSM."

Dr Woolfe believed pressure from supermarket chiefs also helped to kill off an FSA surveillance committee which gathered intelligence on rogue suppliers.

"I don't think the higher management of the retailers particularly liked our name and shame policy - they felt it was food enforcement by the back door," he said.

After 2005 the agency wound down its surveillance operations which were taken over by local authorities.

An FSA spokesman said: "The problem here is either gross negligence or criminal activity, potentially across Europe. We're not aware of any evidence to suggest that the reclassification of DSM as Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM) in the UK has lead to the contamination of beef products with horsemeat.

"Regardless of financial pressures that may have arisen from the DSM moratorium, the food industry is required to ensure their products are legally produced, safe to eat and are what they say on the label. There is simply no excuse for substituting beef for horsemeat."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines