The meat and dairy industries have expressed relief after the FSA decided not to press for mandatory labelling of products from the offspring of clones.

In a meeting this week, FSA board members said it was untenable to call for mandatory labelling of such products because it was not currently possible to trace them reliably. In addition, there were no food safety reasons to warrant compulsory labelling.

Board members stressed the FSA was tasked solely with looking at food safety, although some admitted disquiet about cloning from an animal welfare or ethical perspective.

Board member Chris Pomfret said the FSA had "very little choice" other than to say there was no evidence products from clones and their progeny posed a risk to consumers, "although I have some very strong views on the animal welfare and ethical ­concerns."

There was also concern a compulsory requirement would prompt manufacturers and retailers to opt for meaningless labels equivalent to 'may contain nuts' to avoid being sued.

A storm resulted earlier this year when it emerged meat from the offspring of cloned animals had entered the food chain.

The FSA said at the time that meat from the offspring of cloned animals should have been submitted for approval under the novel foods legislation while Brussels said the rules only needed apply to meat from clones themselves. Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said the FSA had reached a "sensible, proportionate position" that was now more in line with the EC.

NFU chief livestock adviser John Mercer said it was important decisions about cloning were made based on evidence but ­public confidence was the NFU's "absolute priority."

The FSA decision does not mean manufacturers and retailers cannot introduce labels highlighting whether products come from clones or the offspring of clones, on a ­voluntary basis.

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