For Your Information: F13-03 Retained Moisture - Lamb Skirts to UK

New Zealand Food Safety Authority
Date: 21st July 2003
From: Neil Armitage, Programme Manager - Market Access (Middle East & Africa)

(Any queries contact your local verifier)

Lamb mince is a common product retailed by supermarkets in the UK. The mince is produced by, or for, the supermarkets from lamb and mutton skirts. Recent surveys of lamb mince on retail display carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a regulatory authority in the UK, detected moisture levels between 4 – 15% in product, much of which was identified as being derived from NZ lamb skirts.

NZFSA advised the Meat Industry Association (MIA) of the issue in April this year and indicated to the MIA and FSA that regulatory intervention was not contemplated at this stage. As moisture levels in red meats were not regulated in the UK at that time, the issue was considered a commercial matter that should be resolved by industry. The FSA accepted the NZ position but were bound to inform the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), LACORS is a company registered in England as Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food & Trading Standards. LACORS considered the issue under the provisions of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 and has determined that any added water above the 5% allowance should be declared in a list of ingredients. Compliance checks will allow a 2% tolerance, due to analytical uncertainty, and action would therefore be taken when undeclared water levels are detected above 7%.

The added water in NZ lamb skirts is considered to be a consequence of processing these tissues (diaphragm) as offal. The moisture pick-up occurring when water is used to flume skirts to packing rooms, washing skirts with inadequate draining before packing and, in some cases, immersion chilling. FSA carried out in factory inspections in the UK and did not find any opportunity to add water during the mincing and packing process. Furthermore, they reported that added water was not detected in lamb mince produced from UK or Australian raw material, which suggests that the NZ process of recovery of skirts differs from the process used in those countries.

The responsibility for labelling mince containing added water in excess of 5% rests with the processor or retailer in the UK. The purpose of this notice is to bring to the attention of operators that processes for recovery and packing of skirts in NZ have the potential to add significant amounts of water that will carry-over into products subsequently manufactured from these skirts. Raw mince manufactured from NZ lamb and mutton skirts for sale in the UK would have to have any moisture in excess of 5% declared as added water in the list of ingredients. This may now affect commercial specifications for the supply of lamb and mutton skirts for manufacture into lamb mince in the UK.

Disclaimer: This 'For Your Information' is intended for use as a guideline only and should not be taken as definitive or exhaustive. NZFSA endeavours to keep this information current and accurate. However, it may be subject to change without notice. NZFSA will not accept liability for any loss resulting from reliance on this information.

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