Food Law News - EU - 2010

FSA News Item, 20 May 2010

HYGIENE - Agency asks European Commission to legalise ‘smokies’

The Food Standards Agency has written to the European Commission seeking a change in European Union (EU) law to permit production of smoked skin-on sheep meat for human consumption.

This follows the Board’s earlier discussion, on 26 January, at which agreement was given for the Agency to push for this change in EU law, subject to the clearance of Ministers across the UK to this course of action.

Smoked 'skin-on' sheep carcasses, known as smokies, are eaten by some minority ethnic communities in the UK. However, they are banned from being produced legally in the EU because hygiene legislation requires all parts of the body of sheep intended for human consumption (except the head and feet) to be skinned.

Investigations by the Agency and representatives of the UK meat industry have shown that it is possible to produce such meat safely and hygienically in slaughterhouses.

The European Commission has indicated that EU hygiene legislation could, with strong supporting evidence, be amended to allow smokies to be produced legally. If agreed, this would help to eliminate the driving force behind the current illegal production of smokies, which carries food safety risks to consumers and requires considerable enforcement activity.

It would also enable sheep farmers in the UK to have access to a new and potentially lucrative market, especially for lower-value sheep, such as cull ewes.

However, in spite of this important step, the process of legalising the production of smokies is likely to take a number of years. In the meantime, the production of smokies remains illegal and the Agency will continue to work closely with local authorities to take action against those breaching these regulations.

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