Hygiene concerns over “smokies” or blow-torched skin-on sheep carcasses, have been allayed by Food Standards Agency commissioned research.

Smokie production is illegal under EU law, but farm industry leaders, aware of illegal imports or illicit production in the UK, questioned why a carefully controlled industry could not be established to satisfy a growing demand from ethnic consumers.

That resulted in the FSA research at Bristol University which has found that smokies could be produced quite safely under hygienic conditions.

RESIDUES

It showed hygiene of mutton produced using a specially engineered burner operating at 515C could be better than that of conventionally dressed carcasses.

The only downside of the otherwise very positive report was concern about possible risks posed by the presence of chemicals residues on the skin from pour-on and dip solutions.

FUW representative Derek Morgan said: “We have always recognised that demand for this type of meat exists, but deeply concerned that it has been met by illegal imports and sheep slaughtered in illegal and unhygienic premises in the UK.”

Margaret Dalton, who has campaigned for six years for the legalisation of safe smokies, and for tougher border controls to keep out potentially diseased imports of meat, said she was delighted by the report.

“The industry must keep up the pressure on our government and the EU to ensure that this very valuable piece of research is the foundation of a new processing sector supplying safe meat to ethnic communities.”

FSA directors will now study the findings.