So we’ve seen another turn in the endless story of MSM, or what isn’t MSM, or what was never MSM, or…what was the question?

The Commission remains ominously silent on the subject. Possibly poised, waiting to deliver enlightenment to the masses. Or maybe it has forgotten, as happens to us all occasionally, why we opened the fridge in the first place.

This is an issue worth tens of millions of pounds every year across the UK meat sectors, and it’s a similar story for industry in other Member States. We might ask the question of how we have arrived at this state of affairs. How a small piece of otherwise good legislation has had such a negative impact, and why, when industry across the continent is crying out for progress, we’re still arguing about outdated definitions.

We now have a High Court judgment that says the product in question – a very specific product – is fresh meat. No caveats or riders, just fresh meat as defined in Regulation 853/2004, Annex I, paragraph 1.10. Great news! Or is it…?

If such a judgment can be applied fairly across products equivalent to the one in question, then we do have a foundation for a sensible approach. One that focuses on the quality and properties of the end product, and not the type of machinery used. We know technology has outpaced legislation in this field, and we’re putting the tools in place to support a change in focus.

There is a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) coming to fruition that, based on previous MACSYS work, will provide a non-proprietary methodology to assess the degradation of tissue. This is a tool that can be used across all fragmented and comminuted products. Unfortunately, and there’s always an unfortunately, it will have to work in conjunction with regulatory thresholds. I can hear the collective groan at the thought of trying to agree on what level of degradation corresponds to which definition.

This brings us back around to the Commission. There is an awful lot of work to be done whether the ultimate decision is to stick or twist. On the plus side there is a growing bloc of Member States taking this issue seriously and recognising the value of these products to consumers and economies.

We must give the Commission every assistance to come to the right decision with the right legislative support behind it. This will not be a quick process, and needs time for reflection by both the Commission and Member State authorities. But surely by now, after all this time, and with all the progress in technology, we can agree that change is needed.

This article was first published in Meat Management magazine.