The Food Standards Agency today started consultation on tightening the laws that prevent unfit meat entering the food chain. The proposals could result in poultry meat and low risk red meat that is unfit for human consumption being stained with indelible inks. The consultation is also seeking views on what other actions may be required to provide additional consumer protection to tackle risks to public health through criminal activity.
The action follows the jailing last December of five men who had been convicted of a £2.5m fraud diverting unfit poultry meat into the food chain. In March, the Food Standards Agency, Derbyshire Constabulary and Amber Valley council seized around 40 tonnes of unfit meat from Denby Poultry Products, a pet food plant near Ripley in Derbyshire. Nineteen people were arrested over allegations that unfit meat was being sold for human consumption. Police investigations are continuing.
Strict controls already exist for the production of meat, and for the disposal of animal by-products. High risk red meat products are already stained.
Suzi Leather, Deputy Chairman of the FSA said: " We have been actively supporting investigations into allegations that unfit meat is entering the food chain with some success. However, we need to ensure that public health is protected from determined criminals as far is possible. Staining could make it more difficult for unfit meat to be passed off for human consumption."
Option 1 - Stain "high risk" poultry by-products
"High risk" poultry meat by-products would include:
Option 2 - Stain both "high risk" and "low risk" poultry by-products
"Low risk" material is considered to be all other by-products outside the "high risk" category, for example, poultry meat that is bruised. Rotherham Borough Council has advised the FSA that the unfit meat involved in the case they investigated involved both "high" and "low risk" by-products.
Option 3: Stain "low risk" red meat by-products
This could be on the grounds that they too were unfit for human consumption and could be fraudulently diverted into the human food chain. "Low risk" by-products are used in the manufacture of pet foods.
Closing potential loopholes
A further issue is the fact that the staining requirements of the ABPI only apply to licensed slaughterhouses, game processing facilities and animal by-product premises. The Agency would want to consider whether the requirement to stain should be extended to licensed cutting plants and cold stores. This would need to apply to both poultry meat and red meat cutting plants and cold stores.