Key meat industry organisations are to hold a special “mince summit” on 3 April, to discuss the problems being caused by EU legislation on the age of red meat for mincing.
The ruling, which the Food Standards Agency failed to overturn in Brussels, bans the processing of mince beyond six days after slaughter.
At the moment British meat hangs for 14-28 days before being processed. But the new rules, contained within the EU hygiene regulations, seek to bring all British red meat up to standards typically reserved for raw mince dishes, for example steak tartare as favoured by the French.
UK consumers could face higher costs for British mince as a consequence, as trimmings from matured carcasses could not be used.
“The European rules appear to be designed with a continental vision of mince in mind and have the potential to seriously damage a significant proportion of the meat industry,” said a statement from the British Meat Processors Association, which is organising the summit.
“The legislation is not based on science and does not take account of the high standards of hygiene employed in the UK. The time limits are too restrictive and would mean that perfectly good meat falling just one day beyond the limits could not be used. There needs to be a clear distinction between mince to be eaten raw and mince to be eaten cooked.”
Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said it was vital that the industry itself took ownership of a problem, which the authorities had not been able to deal with.
Ian Anderson, executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, added that the legislation should be flexible enough to enable traditional production of mince in the UK to continue. “This is not an issue which lends itself to a ‘one size fits all’ solution.”
Neil Parish MEP, chairman of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee voiced his suport, calling the EU regulations “short-sighted”.
“We do not eat steak tartare or other raw mince dishes. We like our meat well hung and well cooked. This latest ruling by the Commission ignores long established British traditions for hanging meat and is potentially catastrophic for the consumer and the meat sector alike.
“Instead of attacking our traditions, the Commission needs to rethink this policy immediately.”
British consumers typically eat their way through 135,000t of fresh mince, and another 350,000t in ready-made meals – accounting for almost 40% of the market.