Meat trade and farming organisations have strongly criticised the Food Standards Authority (FSA) over a tweet promoting #meatfreeweek.

The FSA has since deleted the tweet and issued a statement saying that it had overstepped the mark.

The tweet invited the public to take up the #meatfreeweek challenge and implied participants would “feel good” for doing so.

FSA tweet that was deleted

#meatfreeweek is an international initiative encouraging people to go vegetarian for seven days from 1 August and has the backing of celebrities Jamie Oliver and Paul McCartney.

A joint statement from the meat trade (the NFU, National Sheep Association, Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, British Meat Processors Association, British Poultry Council, National Federation of Meat & Food Traders) said the FSA had operated outside its remit as a non-ministerial government department (NMGD) by promoting the campaign:

“Its role is not that of lobbyist but to use its expertise and influence so that people can trust that the food they buy and eat is safe and honest. At no point should it be actively influencing people to make a particular dietary choice.”

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An FSA spokesperson responded by saying the NMGD were by no means against the meat trade:

“We’ve recently run campaigns promoting safe and healthy chicken consumption and our upcoming barbecue campaign will focus on burgers, so we are by no means anti-meat.”

“(The FSA) regularly flag up items of interest to our followers on social media, but this tweet strayed too much into telling people what to do and did not properly reflect our position, which is why it was deleted.”

The coalition government removed a number of the FSA’s responsibilities so it could be solely focused on food safety policy and enforcement.