British chicken defended after added water claims

The British Poultry Council has insisted that British chicken is not subject to any unnecessary processing, such as “tumbling” to boost water content, following newspaper reports suggesting the practice is commonplace.

An article in The Guardian – under the headline “Chicken tumbling to add water – a widespread industrial practice” – describes how it is still legal under EU law to combine water with animal protein and then add it to chicken breast fillets, so long as it is clearly labelled.

The article claims that the recession has given fresh impetus to the adulteration of chickenmeat and describes how frozen Brazilian product is imported into the UK, mixed with water and a binding agent, and sold as frozen chicken breast fillets in leading supermarkets.

The Sunday Times then went on to estimate the cost of water in chicken at £1.54/litre, based on a 15% water content, claims that were repeated in the Daily Mail.

The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that it is legal to add water to poultrymeat, so long as it is clearly declared on the label. It has also launched an investigation into the specific case highlighted in The Guardian.

“We have asked for further information about the precise nature of the processes that the meat from Brazil has undergone in the UK. Only once we have this can we advise further as to its status under the EU Food Hygiene Regulations,” said a spokesman.

“The FSA is investigating allegations made with regard to the labelling of these chicken products and we are working with local authorities to visit the relevant premises in the UK to gather further information.”

Meanwhile, the British Poultry Council has recommended that consumers seek out British chicken.

“It is important that consumers know where their chicken comes from, how it has been reared, and what sort of preparation has taken place before it reaches the supermarket shelves,” said a statement.

“British producers work closely with retailers to ensure high standards across a short supply chain. Consumers can rest assured that British chicken has been raised with welfare as a priority. It is high-quality, nutritious and affordable and has not undergone any unnecessary processing.”

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