2003 sees stricter labelling rules for meat

EU - A Directive amending current EU labelling legislation(1) to tighten up the definition of the term "meat" for the labelling of meat-based products entered into force on 1 January with a double circulation period of affected products until end of June
calendar icon 7 January 2003
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Consumers generally perceive meat to mean muscle-meat. The new definition will allow consumers to clearly see if they are eating muscle-meat, fat or offal. The Directive applies to products that contain meat as an ingredient, while meat sold without further processing is excluded. Affected products include sausages, pâté, cooked meats, prepared dishes and canned meat.

David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the move towards a clearer definition. He said: "My priority is to allow consumers to make an informed choice. Transparent and precise labelling is essential to giving consumers information on what they are eating. The Directive also provides for the systematic indication of which species the meat comes from, distinguishing for example 'beef meat' from 'pig meat'. This information is very important for consumers in helping them to better understand the price differences between products and to make choices based on personal preferences."

Transitional period with double circulation of goods

Provision has been made for a six-month transitional period from 1 January to 30 June 2003, allowing industry to conform to the new requirements. During this period, goods produced in keeping with the new rules and the old rules will both be allowed on the market. New labels can appear as of 1 January 2003 but the biggest changes will become visible in July, when all products will have to be labelled in conformity with the new rules. However, the trade in goods labelled before the end of June will continue to be authorised, while stocks last.

What will the Directive do?

Some Member States previously adopted their own definitions of meat for labelling purposes. This definition will now be harmonised at EU level. The Directive contains a set of provisions to improve consumer information on meat products in a variety of ways.

The Directive restricts the definition of meat to the skeletal-attached muscles, which is a major development. Other parts of animals for human consumption, such as offal (including the heart, intestine and liver) or fat, will now have to be labelled as such and not as "meat"(2).

However, there is provision for a certain part of the fat content, where it adheres to the muscles, to be treated as meat, subject to the maximum limits laid down in the definition.

The Directive also provides for the systematic indication of the species from which the meat comes so that for example 'beef meat' is distinguished from 'pig meat'.

Finally, the definition excludes "mechanically separated meat". In beef, mechanically separated meat has been banned entirely due to BSE. For other species, mechanically separated meat will in future have to be labelled separately and cannot form part of the meat content of any products in which it occurs.

Source: European Commission - 6th January 2003

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