Court case on definition of fresh meat opens up labelling & meat recovery opportunities

The High Court has confirmed that meat recovered by Newby Foods’ novel method of passing bones which had meat attached through a low pressure machine could be classified as ‘fresh meat’ and not Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM.)

The Judgement by Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart handed down last month, 23 March 2016, considered the definitions of ‘fresh meat’, ‘minced meat’, ‘MSM’ and ‘meat preparations’ as well as processed products from meat within Regulation 853/2004. On the facts of the case, Newby Foods’ method meant loss or modification of the muscle fibre structure was confined to the cutting points and the flesh bearing bones going into the machine were often more than 50% meat. This therefore meant that Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart was able to distinguish the process from other methods that might involve scrap cuttings/trimmings or bone scrapings as referenced in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgement of 16 October 2014.

It is of interest that in the judgement mention was made to Article 11 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU): ‘Faced with a stark choice of two alternatives, one of which will go a little way towards the promotion of sustainable development and the other of which is environmentally wasteful, it seems to me that the court should adopt the former unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so.’ (para 83 Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart)

The judgement means that a common-sense, factual approach may be made in assessing the loss or modification of muscle fibre structure in how the end product is defined, and that the process of cutting, in itself, should not be sufficient to define a product as MSM as opposed to fresh meat. This may well result in significant opportunities in labelling for the meat processing industry.

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