Rationalisation of a myriad EU meat hygiene rules into three ‘megaregs’ by next May could see the widespread legalisation of smokies or singed sheep carcases as well as insufflation, skin removal by compressed air after slaughter.
The former system offers a delicacy for the ethnic market in Britain and elsewhere throughout the EU while the latter offers a product with a white carcase bloom prized by Greek consumers.
Britain’s Food Standards Agency may have the last word on introduction of these systems
here, although EU law will supersede any decision. The FSA has commissioned research into safety systems for production of smokies in licensed premises, due to be completed by early 2006. But Peter Hardwick, the MLC’s Brussels-based international manager, believes the EU changes will go through.
Australians have been trying to persuade the European authorities to import skin-on goat carcases for the ethnic markets while New Zealand has also been running trials on skin removal using compressed air.
However, meat industry leaders fear adverse consumer reaction, particularly as illegal smokie production in Britain has attracted court proceedings.
“I am nervous about anything undermining consumer confidence. We cannot afford food scares,” said Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Processors’ Association. “But we must expand opportunities. If there is a market capable of being exploited legally then we would be foolish to ignore it.”
Average consumption of sheepmeat is estimated at 20kg per head per year among the ethnic markets against a British national average of 6kg.