Study to check water content in poultrymeat

The EU Commission is launching an investigation into the maximum water content of poultrymeat, to see whether current limits are still valid.

In a tender document issued this week, the commission suggests that the exisiting regulation may be outdated.

That specifies that, depending on the chilling method used for freezing EU poultrymeat, up to 7% extraneous water is permissible in whole carcasses, and between 2% and 6% in cuts.

If exceeded, the product may still be marketed in the EU, but must be labelled, in red capital letters, as “Water content exceeds EC limit”.

But these thresholds are based on an EU-wide study made in 1993 and there have been repeated suggestions that they are no longer relevant.

“Since 1993, developments in respect of breeds, age at slaughter and the weight at slaughter have taken place, which may have caused a change in the proportion between physiological water and extraneous water,” said the EU Commission document.

A recent report from the German Association of Poultry Processors supported this view. This revealed that, while the water:protein ratio of turkeymeat had not changed since 1993, for broiler cuts it had gone up by an estimated 7%. “This increase caused a remarkable number of control samples to exceed the limits of the tolerable water content in poultrymeat,” said the commission.

As such, the EU has launched a tender for organisations to study the water content of breast fillets and chicken legs, allocating a budget of up to E190,000 for the project.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said the review would help protect consumers from the risk of being overcharged.

“These rules are necessary as poultry meats are often priced according to weight, and excess water leads to higher prices, prices that could be

misleading and unfair to the consumer,” she said. “This review is important to ensure that the poultry industry is fairly represented and consumer information is updated.”

The study is due to be completed by the end of 2012.