FSA News item, 26 January 2010
The Food Standards Agency Board has today agreed to push for a change in European Union (EU) law to permit production of smoked skin-on sheep meat for human consumption.
Smoked 'skin-on' sheep carcasses, known as 'smokies', are eaten by some 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 completely 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 Agency Board has today agreed to seek clearance from Ministers to make an approach to the EU to allow for the legal production of smoked skin-on sheep.
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 driver for the current illegal production of smokies that 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, even with today’s decision, 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.