EU Gives Go-ahead to Lactic Acid in Meat Processing

EU - European Union agriculture ministers have given the go-ahead for the use of lactic acid as a decontaminant in beef processing.
calendar icon 30 November 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

However, the move has been criticised by consumer groups, which say it undermines food safety standards.

Ministers found no majority for or against the European Commission’s bid to approve the treatment, effectively allowing the practice, which is widely used in the US but currently forbidden in the EU.

The process has been described as safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the latest move follows pressure from the US, who said the ban needed to be lifted so that it could meet its beef export quotas.

The European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC said it is concerned slaughterhouses could use the practice to mask poor hygiene practices and clean meat prior to final inspection by the official vet.

The consumer group said that lactic acid should only be applied after final inspection by the official veterinarian guaranteeing that meat is fit for consumption.

Given consumers’ rejection of chemical treatments of meat, the organisation said it is essential that they are informed by the label if the meat has been chemically treated.

Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, said: "Evidence shows that consumers are against the chemical treatment of meat. They want and expect the meat they eat to be safe. The foremost concern of decision makers must be to maintain Europe’s strict food safety standards regardless of trade pressures.

“If chemicals such as lactic acid were ever to be allowed, their use should be made transparent for consumers. Shoppers should be able to rely on clear labels telling them whether or not their meat has been chemically treated.”

France, Greece, Latvia, Austria and Poland voted against the move. Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment (ENVI) backed the decision in a tight vote, on 28 November.

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