Food Law News - UK - 2004

FSA Consultation Letter, 17 September 2004

WATER IN POULTRYMEAT - Consultation on draft Poultry meat, farmed game bird meat and rabbit meat (hygiene and inspection) (amendment) (England) regulations 2004

An amendment is proposed to the Poultry Meat, Farmed Game Bird Meat and Rabbit Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 (PMRs). This would correct an under-implementation of the EU Poultry Meat Directive 71/118 in respect of the prohibition on the use of water retention agents in fresh poultry meat. Responses are requested by: 10 December 2004

Consultation details

Article 5(1)(b) of Directive 71/118 prohibits the placing on the market of poultry meat where agents that specifically promote water retention have been used. The PMRs, in implementing Directive 71/118, do not mention the prohibition on the use of water retention agents. Hence this is an under-implementation.

The Agency has been putting pressure on the European Commission to adopt a variety of measures following the discovery in the UK of excessive added water and pork and beef proteins used as water retention agents in poultry meat preparations imported from the Netherlands and Belgium. Although the Commission has not yet agreed to take these measures, it has recently called on Member States to enforce the prohibition in article 5(1)(b) mentioned above. It has also said that it will ask its Food and Veterinary Office to carry out inspections in the Member States in order to verify that this prohibition is being enforced.

Enforcement of this prohibition will, however, not of itself solve the problem of the use of water retention agents and the addition of excessive amounts of water in poultry meat products. This is because the prohibition relates only to the use of water retention agents in fresh poultry meat, not in poultry meat preparations. The products in question from the Netherlands and Belgium were the latter. This is why the UK has asked the Commission additionally to act (i) to extend the prohibition to preparations as well as to fresh meat and (ii) to impose a maximum limit on the amount of added water in poultry meat products generally.

Against this background, the Agency considers that the best course would nevertheless be to amend the PMRs to properly implement the prohibition. There are three principal reasons for this:
(a) we would fulfil our Community obligations, and thus avoid the possibility of infraction proceedings;
(b) legal effect would be given to a potentially important consumer protection measure; and
(c) we would remove a potential obstacle to our persuading the Commission to take the additional measures we have proposed, given that it is not credible to argue for an extension of a prohibition which we have not ourselves implemented.

We believe the proposed amendment to the PMRs will provide beneficial protection for the consumer. There would also be no new compliance costs for businesses because we believe that water retention agents are not currently used by the UK industry in fresh poultry meat.

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