The BBC has learned that European meat suppliers are using a loophole in the law to sell a banned low quality material to UK sausage makers.

E-mails indicate that suppliers are selling a form of mechanically recovered residue under different names so that it can be legally termed meat in Britain. One of the UK’s biggest sausage suppliers admitted that some of this meat is in their products but where used it is always declared.

Another manufacturer told the BBC he believes the product is being widely used in Britain.

In April 2012 the European Union told the British government that a type of mechanically separated meat (MSM) used across the UK could no longer count towards the meat content of a product.

Called desinewed meat (DSM), it had been introduced into the UK in the 1990s and supporters argued that it was a higher form of recovered meat, retrieved from animal bones using low pressure water. Visually it is said to be similar to a fine mince, and closer to meat than the more liquid MSM “slurry”.

The EU said DSM could still be used in UK meat products but could not be considered part of the meat content. This ban should also apply to desinewed meat across every member state. But the BBC has learned that across Europe many suppliers continue to produce desinewed meat using different names including “Baader meat” and “3mm mince”.

Baader meat is made using a machine from the Baader company in Germany and according to a spokesman, the device removes the membrane and the sinew and in the end “it is meat!” Suppliers that use the Baader system in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain all stated they believed their desinewed products are outside the EU ban and can count towards the meat content of sausages and other foods. In e-mails seen by the BBC, some of these companies say they are very keen to supply it to the UK. “My information is that you only have to declare MSM, and Baader no.” said one German based supplier. “I know it is very strange but I didn’t invent these laws,” he writes. A supplier of chicken meat made a similar point in another email; “Declarable MSM is derived from chickens with all the meat and skin in its original format and minced via the Baader machine, all the bones are separated mechanically.”

 EU regulations on what can and can’t be termed meat are causing confusion. Other people close to the food processing industry in the UK suggest that the use of Baader meat is widespread.

Kevin McWhinney is a sausage maker in Northern Ireland who has been campaigning against the use of these types of meat residues for years.

“The UK should not be using this Baader meat but as far as I am aware it is coming into the country and is being used,” he said.

This perspective is supported by Matt Starling, a lawyer with the firm Geldards who specialises in regulatory issues.

“We know that there are significant (EU) exports of Baader meat, and it is fair to assume, and that’s the government’s view, that it is being used to replace DSM,” he told BBC News.

“And that view of the government was strongly made by the minister last year and is shared, as I understand, by the FSA.”

Meaty definitions

  • MSM or mechanically separated meat is a red paste produced by forcing fragments of meat from animal bones using high pressure water
  • DSM or desinewed meat is produced from the same source but using low pressure. The meat product is said to be more visually akin to a fine mince
  • Baader meat is another type of desinewed meat, produced on a low pressure extraction machine made by German company, Baader

He said there was a legal inconsistency between the UK and the EU because the Commission hadn’t specifically banned the Baader meat process.

“The matter hasn’t been tested, but as things stand there appears to be no clear legal redress if a company does export Baader and it is used to replace the products that we were producing ourselves until they were banned last year.”

When contacted by the BBC, a spokesman for the EU said that as far as the Union is concerned Baader meat is MSM.

Sausage maker Kevin McWhinney’s family have been in the business for five generations – he agrees wholeheartedly with the position taken by the EU. Whether the process is called Baader meat or DSM or 3mm mince, to him it was all the same.

“The powers that be would have you think its different because it uses a low pressure – but it is the same bones, same scraps off the bones, the same machines, just with different pressure. Someone’s just trying to invent a new product,” he said.

Many people connected to the meat industry in Britain say the EU has “used a sledgehammer” against the UK on this issue, while letting other European countries effectively get away with continuing to sell similar products without restrictions.

Dr Duncan Campbell is one of Britain’s most senior food inspectors and head of West Yorkshire Analytical Services.

“What is clear is that there is a lack of uniformity of enforcement of EU regulation – and that is the loophole that is allowing material to be counted as meat in another European member state – the same product would not be considered meat in the UK,” he said. But there is also the sense that the intense downward pressure on prices driven by supermarkets is pushing manufacturers to find the cheapest ingredients. One EU based meat supplier pointed out that a half kilo of sausages was selling in one supermarket for less than a euro. It was impossible, he said, to produce meat at that price without cutting corners.


As I said in a previous post folks…if you want to know what goes into your food, buy the raw product, and make it yourself. Most mincer machines have sausage making attachment….


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    sarasinart said,

    Things continue to get more complicated with food. It’s sad that we have to question everything.

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