Would Mechanically Recovered Meat Residue by Any Name Still Taste as Sweet?

Sunday, March 3, 2013, by Jonathan Ambrose

Fans of the horse meat scandal will be happy to hear that the European meat processing industry was recently implicated again for the mislabeling of ingredients. This time it appears that the correct species was involved, at least.

The BBC reported on Wednesday that it had learned that European meat suppliers had been using legal loopholes to sell a banned meat product to UK sausage makers. Desinewed meat (DSM) is made by subjecting the bones of slaughtered animals to a low-pressure mechanical meat removal process.  The resulting meat is visually similar to a “fine mince.” In April 2012, the European Union banned the use of DSM from some animals, and instituted a requirement that when it is used, it does not count to the meat content of products.

Many suppliers across Europe, however, still produce DSM using different names, and apparently these products are immune from the ban. Baader meat is made by removing the meat from bones using a Baader machine. It is sold as “Baader Meat” or “3mm mince” and according to some European sellers can be counted in the meat content of sausage and other products. According to a spokesman, “it is meat!”

These allegations illustrate the difficulties that can arise when sudden changes to food safety regulations are made without considering their economic effects. The UK had been using DSM in sausage products for nearly a decade when the European Commission declared a moratorium on its use last year. Faced with the ban, UK sausage suppliers were forced with the choice of outsourcing for a cheap supply of DSM or paying more for minced meat. But retailers and consumers are unwilling to pay more for meat products.

One former government scientist, Dr. Mark Wolfe, has implicated the DSM ban as a cause for the recent discovery of mislabeled horse meat in beef products. According to Dr. Wolfe, the Commissions decision, which was “not based on any evidence” led suppliers to source cheap meat from other countries. “A lot of suppliers went abroad to find alternative sources to cheap meat and that is when things went wrong.”

At the time of the Ban, the British Meat Processors’ Association warned of its effects, stating that it was “a criminal waste of a valuable product at a time of a shortage of proteins.”  The entire experience should be a lesson to the European Commission that regulations affecting a diverse and dynamic economy may have unforeseen and unfortunate consequences. Perhaps we really don’t want to know how the sausage is made.