Cheap mince a thing of the past?

Cheap minced meat could become a thing of the past after the FSA failed to reach a solution with the European Commission on the safe age of mince.

The Commission's hygiene regulations state that no fresh red meat can be processed for mince after six days from slaughter - or three days for poultry. The industry, through the FSA, has been arguing for it to be amended, as this would have enormous impact on the UK sector.

However, the FSA's attempts to overturn the ruling has now failed, and the industry will now be unable to use trim from matured carcases in mince production.

Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said: "If we cannot find a way to change the regulations, mince will either become scarce or more expensive, as more fresh meat goes into the product."

The FSA has said a solution offered by the Commission was to restrict the use of mince from matured carcases to the national market. A spokesman said: "Industry representatives said very clearly that retailers would not wish to sell mince bearing a national mark. It was therefore agreed that FSA would think again."

In the meantime, both the red meat and poultry industries are teaming up to lobby in Brussels. Richard Griffiths, from the British Poultry Council, said the FSA's failure was disappointing. "It doesn't help us in the short term. While minced poultry is not a huge part of the market, it's still a valuable part.

"We're disappointed the proposal hasn't been accepted, but that's not down to a lack of effort on FSA's part."

However, Roberts was less forgiving: "We are extremely disappointed that the FSA has reassured us for months that a solution would be found and have failed again to influence Europe.

"This regulation has no relevance to the UK market, there's no risk. Everyone agrees there's no consumer safety aspect to this."