What requirements do I need to be aware of in relation to meat sold in my shop?

Meat Labelling  

From the 19th of January 2009 certain changes were made in relation to the labelling of beef and veal sold across the UK.

The Beef and Veal Labelling Regulations 2008 provide certain labelling requirements that must be adhered to when selling both beef and veal. If these labelling requirements are not adhered to then the meet must be removed from the market immediately.

To whom do the regulations apply to?

The Beef and Veal Labelling Regulations 2008 apply to each and every person involved in the production, slaughter, trade, import, wholesale or retail sale of bovine animals and of their meat.

Therefore the regulations apply to each and every person throughout the whole process of ensuring that this meat appears on the shopping shelves throughout the UK.

If you run a small shop which sells this kind of meat then you must comply with the regulations. If you do not then the meat should be removed from your shelves.

Should members of the public be made aware of the requirements?

As a member of the general public it is always good practice to be aware of any requirements in relation to the meat which you are purchasing in order to be fully aware of what it is you are buying.

What are the requirements which must be adhered to?

From the 1 July 2008 all UK operators must, at the time of slaughter of bovine animals aged 12 months or less, classify and label the meat, including offal, according to one of two sub-categories. This mark will therefore identify the age of the animal and furthermore the permitted sales description of the meat contained therein.

The categories of meat are as follows:
  • Category V – this category is for meat from animals aged eight months or less. Meat from within this category must be called veal.
  • Category Z – this category is for meat from animals aged over eight months but not more than twelve months. Meat from this category must be called beef.

The point of the law contained within these regulations is in order to prohibit the use of the term veal to describe meat from older calves which have been slaughtered between 8-12 months.

Is any additional information allowed to be added to the label?

Any additional information including the fat content etc can be included on the label. The above requirements however must be complied with.

When must the meat be labelled?

There are different requirements in relation to when the meat should be labelled depending upon which stage of the process you are involved in. Requirements are placed upon the following people involved in the production, marketing and selling of beef and veal:

  • Food operators
  • Importers
  • Retailers

Food Operators

A food operator must label the meat at each stage of the production and the marketing processes stating the age of the animal at the slaughter and describing it as either beef or veal in accordance with the above requirements.

Importers

If you are an importer who is importing meat from a country outside the European Union to a country inside the European Union then you must market and label the meat in accordance with the requirements provided for by the regulations.

Retailers

As a retailer you must label the meat which you sell with the age of the animal at slaughter and it must be correctly labelled as either beef or veal.

Each and every operator involved with the production, sale and marketing of beef or veal products must keep records in relation to any meat sold. These records must be made available to an enforcement officer upon their request.

Who enforces these Regulations?

The Regulations are enforced by what is termed an enforcement authority by the regulations. In practice this means that the regulations will be enforced by local councils through trading standards who may carry out inspections of the premises etc.

What powers do the enforcement authorities have under the Regulations?

Enforcement authorities have the power to inspect premises at reasonable times often providing a notice detailing the terms of the inspection. Once on the premises they have the powers to do the following:

  • Inspect any beef or veal which is present on those premises
  • Take samples from any beef or veal which is present on those premises and if it is deemed necessary to send those samples for testing
  • Inspect any labels and any relevant business records in whatever form they are held – including electronic records
  • Seize and detain any such labels and records – including those held in electronic form – that may be required as evidence for any proceedings under the Regulations

As a retailer what will happen if I am found to have breached the Regulations?

If you are a retailer and beef or veal which you are selling has been labelled in a manner which does not comply with the Regulations an authorised officer of an enforcement authority may serve a notice on you and your shop requiring the removal from sale of the meat until it has been relabeled in accordance with the Regulations.

What happens if I fail to comply with the enforcement notice?

Any person who fails to comply with the notice will be guilty of an offence.

As a consumer is there anything else I should be aware of?

The European Commission Directive 2001/101/EC has amended the Food Labelling Directive (2000/13/EC) and introduced a generic definition of meat to be used throughout the European Union for the purposes of labelling meat. This means that meat ingredients declarations must be on the same basis throughout the European Union which provides consumers with much more consistent and transparent information in relation to what goes into the meat which they are purchasing.