Industry to discuss sheep carcass splitting

Industry leaders are to meet with representatives from the Food Standards Agency and Defra to discuss sheep TSE regulations.

The meeting, on February 12, will give NFU members and processors the opportunity to explain the practical and financial implications of the current regulations - which require the removal of the spinal cord in all sheep aged over 12 months old - with decision key makers.

It will be chaired by Malcolm Corbett, vice chairman of the NFU's national livestock board, and will provide an opportunity for a frank and open discussion on how the regulation has affected producers and what changes can be made to the current practice of splitting the carcass to remove the spinal cord.

Corbett said: "The devaluation of lambs due to the way the TSE rules are policed in UK abattoirs has gone on for too long, and a solution has to be found as soon as possible.

"There is compelling EU scientific evidence that lamb meat poses negligible risk to the human food chain and therefore the EU rules with regard to sheep age detection and the UK TSE controls need to be changed. Splitting the carcass is not the answer and a new one has to be found. This meeting is an ideal opportunity to gain a solution to the problem once and for all."

Representatives from the FSA and Defra will explain the current procedures and rules to producers as well as getting information from producers and processors about the financial implications of the requirement to split carcasses, which can devalue the product by up to 80%.

The aim of the meeting is to formulate a set of actions which will prevent further devaluation of lamb while maintaining consumer protection. The areas looked at will include:

? A joint lobbying strategy to lift EU restrictions;

? Getting changes to the UK implementation procedures;

? Different techniques to remove the spinal cord for animals over 12 months old in various plants;

? Solutions to prevent the need to remove the spinal cord of lambs.