Food Law News - UK - 2004

FSA Press Release (2004/0529), 27 September 2004

LABELLING - Shoppers being misled by minced meat labelling

A Food Standards Agency survey published today has found that consumers are often being misled by minced meat labels which claim that the product contains less fat than it actually does. In the case of products claiming to be 'extra' or 'super' lean, some in fact contained as much if not more than 'lean' mince.

The survey compared the fat content of 'standard' minced meat with mince claiming to be 'lean' or 'extra/super lean'. It also checked whether the fat content on the nutrition labels was accurate.

The Agency looked at 561 samples of fresh and frozen minced meat, including 444 samples of beef. Chief among the findings are:

Types of beef mince surveyed Range (g of fat per 100g):

David Statham, Director of Enforcement and Food Standards at the FSA said: 'Consumers expect products described as "extra" or "super" lean to contain less fat than "lean" mince. Indeed people often pay a premium price for such products, and yet this survey highlights the fact that some of the products described as "extra" or "super" lean actually contain as much fat, if not more, than "lean" mince.

'The Food Standards Agency did this survey to see if consumers were getting accurate information. It is clear that in some cases they are not. The Agency now intends to consult on the development of its own guidelines for the terms that are used to describe the fat content of mince. We want food manufacturers and retailers to sign up to clear definitions and descriptions and ensure that their products meet them.'

Where the survey found examples of nutrition labels with inaccurate fat levels, the Agency has asked local authorities to take action.

Background notes:

UK law does not specify a maximum fat content for mince unless it is sold under a specific name, such as 'lean minced meat', when the fat content must not exceed 7%. If mince is described in any other way, for example 'minced meat - lean', the law does not apply. However, the Food Safety Act says that food must not be presented or described in a way that misleads the consumer.

Minced beef guidance devised by the Association of Public Analysts (APA) state that 'lean' beef should contain no more than 16g of fat and 'extra/super lean' beef mince no more than 9g of fat per 100g. Public analysts have applied a maximum limit of 25% fat for 'standard' minced beef, which is widely established in case law. The FSA has asked local authorities to take action where the fat content of the samples has exceeded these limits.

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