Labelling meat products

The law relating to the labelling of meat products is governed by the following regulations:

  • The Meat Products (England) Regulations 2003;
  • The Meat Products (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008;
  • The Food Labelling Regulations 1996;
  • The Food Labelling (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2003.

The Meat Products (England) Regulations 2003

The Meat Products (England) Regulations 2003, as amended by the Meat Products (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, apply to food which is ready for delivery to the ultimate consumer or to a catering establishment. The Regulations do not, however, apply to:

  • food which is not intended for human consumption;
  • food which is marked or labelled with a clear indication that it is intended exclusively for consumption by babies or young children;
  • raw meat to which no ingredient other than proteolytic enzymes has been added;
  • poultrymeat which falls within the scope of Council Regulation EEC/1906/90;
  • products containing the fat, but no other meat, of any bird or animal.

Certain parts of the Regulations do not apply in relation to food imported into England.

The following descriptions of products are referred to in the Regulations as “reserved descriptions”:

  • Burger;
  • Economy burger;
  • Hamburger;
  • Chopped meat / chopped cured meat;
  • Corned meat;
  • Luncheon meat;
  • Meat pie;
  • Scotch pie / Scottish pie;
  • Pie / pudding;
  • Pasty / pastie;
  • Sausage.

The Regulations set out detailed criteria which must be met before a product can be described using one of these reserved descriptions.

The Regulations prohibit the sale of food with a label which bears, comprises or includes a reserved description unless the product corresponds with the reserved description for that product in question.

In the case of meat products which have the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcase of meat or of cured meat (but which are not covered by one of the reserved descriptions or if it has the appearance of minced uncooked meat which has been shaped) the name used must include an indication of any starch, protein or ingredient of animal origin, unless the meat product contains meat of the species from which an added ingredient is derived and any added ingredient unless that added ingredient is a starch or protein or one of the following ingredients:

  • an additive;
  • a curing salt;
  • an ingredient used solely as a garnish or decorative coating;
  • an ingredient that is added only in order to impart odour and / or taste;
  • a salt, herb or spice used as seasoning;
  • a sugar that is added only in order to impart a sweet taste;
  • in the case of meat or cooked cured meat, added water making up to not more than 5% of the weight of the product;
  • in the case of uncooked cured meat, added water making up to not more than 10% of the weight of the product.

It is illegal to sell uncooked meat products containing the brains, feet, large intestine, small intestine, lungs, oesophagus, rectum, spinal cord, spleen, stomach, testicles or udder of a mammal. However, this prohibition does not extend to the use of large and small intestines used solely as sausage skins.

Certain meat products are not required to bear an indication of the quantity of an ingredient or category of ingredients. These are the following products when sold not prepacked or prepacked for direct sale:

  • sandwiches, filled rolls and similar products;
  • pizzas and similar topped products;
  • broths, gravies and soups;
  • foods consisting of two or more ingredients which has not been subjected to any processing or treatment once it has been assembled, and which is sold to the ultimate consumer as an individual portion intended to be consumed without further processing or treatment.

Failure to comply with the Regulations

Contravention of the above Regulations is a criminal offence punishable by a fine.