Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Press Release (IP/01/1038-REVISED), 26 November 2001

LABELLING - Stricter Labelling Requirements for Sausages and Preserved Meat Products

The Commission adopted today a Directive which tightens up the definition of the term "meat" for the labelling of pre-packed meat-based products such as cooked meats, prepared dishes and canned meat. The new Directive is 'Commission Directive amending Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs'.

The only current Community definition of meat makes no distinction between muscle-meat, fat and offal, whereas consumers generally perceive meat to mean musclemeat. The existing system is therefore not satisfactory, and a number of Member States had already adopted their own definition of meat for labelling purposes.

"Consumers have a right to the best possible information on the food they are eating and my priority is to help consumers make an informed choice I am pleased that we have put in place a definition which gives the consumer more information and makes the labelling of meat-based products more transparent and more precise", said David Byrne, Member of the Commission responsible for health and consumer protection. "The Directive we have adopted today will also eliminate a number of obstacles to trade caused by differing national definitions."

Detailed provisions

The Directive contains a set of provisions to improve consumer information on prepacked meat products in a variety of ways.

First of all, it restricts the definition of meat to the skeletal- attached muscles, which amounts to a major change. Other parts of animals for human consumption, such as offal (heart, intestine, liver, etc.) or fat, will now have to be labelled as such and not as "meat" (See Table below).

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 (beef meat, pig meat, etc.). This information is very important for consumers in helping them to understand better the price differences between products and to help them make an informed choice on the basis of their personal preferences.

The Member States have until 1 January 2003 to transpose this directive into their national law. Any products made after that date will have to be labelled according to the new rules. However, products made before that date and which are labelled under the old rules can still be sold until stocks run out.

Maximum fat and connective tissue content for ingredients designated by the term "ůmeat".


Fat (%)

Connective tissue (%)

Mammals (other than rabbits and porcines) and mixtures of species with mammals predominating






Birds and rabbits



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