Desinewed meat ban was catalyst for horse meat scandal
A FORMER Government scientist says it is not surprising the horse meat debacle ensued after the European Commission last year banned desinewed meat (DSM) with only ‘a couple of days’ notice.
Speaking to journalists in London this morning (Tuesday) Dr Mark Woolfe, who has worked as a Government scientist for 25 years, said the Commission’s decision was ‘not based on any evidence’ and led suppliers to source cheap DSM from other countries.
The UK has been producing and using DSM for over a decade, but last year the Commission investigated the practice, which involves using low pressure machines to extract the meat from the bones, leaving a mince like substance.
Officers said DSM would have to be labelled mechanically separated meat (MSM) so the structure of the meat is broken down.
Dr Woolfe said although the two processes were completely different, the decision caused major problems for the industry.
UK producers were forced to stop producing DSM with almost immediate effect.
“People don’t recognise the significance of it and the effect on the food chain,” said Dr Woolfe.
The scientist, who ran the FSA’s Food Authenticity Programme from its beginning in 1992 up to 2009, said retailers were ‘gung-ho’ and did not want to pay suppliers any more for the products, even though suppliers would have to source products such as meat mince, which would be more expensive.
Dr Woolfe said this pushed suppliers into sourcing DSM from abroad.
“A lot of suppliers went abroad to find alternative sources of cheap meat and that is when things went wrong,” he added.
At the time, the meat industry warned the decision would have wide ranging impacts, with the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) calling it ‘a criminal waste of a valuable product at a time of a shortage of proteins’.